Category Archives: Beaches

Fatbergs – palm oil pollution?

The Daily Post has been warning that the wreck of the Kimya, which sank in 1991, was disturbed by the recent storms and palm oil from it is once again washing ashore on Anglesey.

Sure enough, today Penrhos Beach was littered with lumps of a white soapy substance that had a very strong smell, like diesel or tar.

And floating on the tide there were more lumps, looking like miniature ice bergs.

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A “fatberg” floating infront of Llanddwyn Island

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All the white blobs are lumps of a stinky, waxy substance – possibly some kind of processed palm oil. At first glance, they looked like polystyrene breaking up.

There were also a couple of lumps of yellowish, waxy stuff – more what I associate with palm oil – which doesn’t smell like diesel, just a bit like rancid fat and these seem to be more attractive to the birds (and presumably dogs too). If this is palm oil, it can make dogs very ill – so be careful. I can’t imagine it’s very good for any aspect of the marine environment, but Natural Resources Wales seem uninterested, saying it is the Council’s responsibility to clean up…

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A smaller piece of yellowish “palm oil” that the birds have been feeding on

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Today, 5th November, many lumps of fat remain on the beach, but the wind is doing a good job of covering them up.

On a lighter note, the Council have put out their warning signs for jellyfish…

Anglesey Council jellyfish sign

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Portuguese Men o’ War

For about a month, Portuguese men o’ war (Physalia physalis) have been washing up on Cornish beaches. Now they have arrived at Newborough too. I spotted one at the start of the week. Today there were about a dozen dotted along the tide line.

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A Portuguese Man o’ War on Penrhos beach Newborough

I had never seen one of these in real life (or death) before, and I was surprised at how petite they are. The sails, or balloons, of the ones I’ve seen are only around 20cm long and 10cm tall at the most. Their colours are stunning.

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Portuguese Man o’ War complete with a little fish in its tentacles (and a pound coin to show its size)

Portuguese Men o’ War are related to the Borne by the Wind Sailors (Velella velella) that washed up earlier in the year.

Sadly, there have also been lots of dead seals washed ashore lately: mostly young pups, still coated in their pale baby fur. In south Wales it is being reported that as many as two-thirds of this year’s seal puppies have been killed by the storms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation is just as bad here:(

After storm Ophelia

After the eerily quiet start to the day, storm Ophelia hit north Wales with brutal force from Monday afternoon through into Tuesday.

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View from the boardwalk the morning after Ophelia

On Penrhos Beach, the sand cliffs have been eaten into again. There is now a vertically faced step of three to six feet running most of the length of the beach. That means it will be harder to “escape” if you get trapped by the tide on the beach. In addition, the whole of the sand cliff has become unstable again – much like it was after storm Imogen in 2016.

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The sand cliffs the length of Penrhos beach have been undermined and are crumbling

Within the newly exposed face of sand, I found this perfectly preserved Jewsbury and Brown Spardal bottle, complete with its rubber screw cap. Jewsbury and Brown were taken over by Schweppes in 1964. Perhaps it is possible that this bottle has lain in the sands for more than 50 years…

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Jewsbury and Brown Spardal Mineral Water bottle complete with its original vulcanite screw stopper

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Detail on the top of the J and B mineral water bottle stopper

I also found an “American style cola” drink can buried in the sand cliff with a date of May 1996.

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A coke tin sticking out from the sand cliff face: its date (top line) is May 96.

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The sand cliff face where the coke tin was. The tin was about two feet off the ground in a cliff about 14 feet tall.

There must’ve been about 12 feet of sand above the coke tin. Presumably all accumulated since 1996. Wow.

 

Before Ophelia

It was so gloomy this morning, it was more like the depths of winter than the middle of October. And then, just before eleven o’clock, the sun came out. But it was a strangely red, wan thing for the first few minutes. Then, as if a switch was flicked, the gloom lifted and the sun returned to normal.

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The sun just beginning to appear before 11am – red and wan

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A couple of minutes later it was becoming brighter

At the same time, the smell and the warmth of the air were amazing.  It was as though the world was on fire somewhere beyond the horizon; with a faint smell of smoke and odd gusts of hot air. Very eerie.

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Llanddwyn Beach – before the storm

Before the sun managed to come out properly and the air cleared, the whole sea and sky had a greenish tint, as though they were ill – but I couldn’t capture it in a picture.

Now it’s time to batten down the hatches until the storm has passed.

 

Crab tide

Yesterday’s tide line on Penrhos beach comprised almost nothing but spiny spider crabs, hundreds, probably thousands of them. It looked like crabageddon.

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Spiny spider crab shells

In fact, I am assured that these aren’t actually dead crabs, they are just the shells from the annual moult. Which explains why there were no birds taking any interest and no smells either. Somewhere out to sea there will be thousands of naked spiny spider crabs waiting for their new shells to grow.

I was puzzled how the crabs could manage to shed their shells, whilst seeming to leave the shells intact. How was that possible? Then it was explained to me that the shell can hinge open (hinging at the front) and the crab wriggles out the rear.  Once I knew that, I had to go and check it out for myself.

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Here’s a freshly washed up crab shell. You can tell it’s empty by giving it a tap and it sounds hollow.

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And, sure enough, if you lift the back edge of the shell, it easily opens up to show you the empty space inside:)

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I also spotted this “jellied” crab…

 

 

Sea gooseberries

I thought these clear little blobs washing up on the shoreline were some stage of a jellyfish life-cycle. However, I now think that they are sea gooseberries (Pleurobrachia pileus, in the phylum Ctenophora – so not even a jellyfish at all).

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A sea gooseberry on an oystershell

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Sea gooseberry

I wasn’t sure if these things could sting, which is why I put this one on a shell to photograph it. However, unlike jellyfish, sea gooseberries don’t even have stingers.

A sadder sight lately along the tide line is the numerous dead dogfish. I guess they’re discarded by fishermen. There have been quite a lot of skate or ray carcasses too, just their spiky spines and heads with their wings removed. At least the birds love feeding on the skate remains and the flesh doesn’t last for long. By contrast, the dogfish just stick around (except for the ones that get eaten by the four-legged dogs walking on the beach – some of the local dogs seem to find part rotted dogfish particularly tasty).

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One of the many dead dog fish on Llanddwyn and Penrhos beaches lately. I thought this one had particularly pretty markings.

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Another dead dogfish…

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A discarded midsection of a skate

The curve of the Cefni

One of the channels of the Afon Cefni that runs out to the sea across the Malltraeth Sands has slowly been making its way eastwards. Now, even at low tide, if you go to the furthest west point of the forest, you are within a few metres of the channel. And at even a moderate tide, the east side of the bay is full in a beautiful sweeping curve.

In previous years, this area has been popular with terns and all kinds of other shore birds: I suppose they’ll move over to the Bodorgan Estate this year – which may even be better, at least more peaceful, for them.

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Malltraeth sands at high tide from the point where Dwynwen’s path reaches the beach

The only slight spoiler when I took the photo was the amount of scum at the water’s edge – I guess it was something washing down with the river as it was only along the Cefni’s edges.

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Scummy foam on the tide

Funnily enough, as the Cefni is shifting in to the east, the Braint (the river that flows through Dwyran and comes into the Menai Strait just after the Rhuddgaer stepping stones) has been shifting to the north west – so between them, they’ve got a bit of a pincer movement going on.

Yesterday was the first day of British Summer Time. And if summer is as summer does, it was definitely summer here this weekend: blue skies, and flat calm blue seas.

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Penrhos Beach – first day of summer time

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Penrhos Beach complete with one of the many fish boxes and oil containers washed in from the boats…