Japanese flotsam, Part 1

Posted by Ken Campbell January 22, 2012 2 Comments 1234 views

The first glass fishing net floats came out of Norway, back in the mid-1800’s. I didn’t realize this… I just assumed that they were a Japanese invention, possibly because I live on the Pacific coast and the ones that make their way to beaches in North America started their journeys in the land of the rising sun.
Ever since I first heard of these items, I have looked for them at every opportunity. I was probably about 10 years old when the idea was first presented to me that something as wondrous as this was out there, riding the ocean currents for years, then washing ashore, perhaps right at my feet. For me, the thought that I might find one of these treasures in the wrack line somewhere became a kind of beachcomber’s grail story, one I’ve been telling myself over and over again.
I’ve come close. My buddy Jon found one near Sand Point on the Olympic coast one time as we were unpacking our kayaks. We walked back and forth between the boats and the camp a few times, and our footprints in the sand made a trail that passed right by a clump of kelp that had rolled up onto the beach. On one of our passes, Jon looked down and picked up something from out of the seaweed pile, brushed it off with a swipe of the hand and there it was. About four or five inches in diameter – it wasn’t a big one – but it was a legitimate Japanese float and I had practically stepped on it several times without seeing it.
I wonder how many times that has happened, how many times I’ve been right on top of one and haven’t noticed it. I have spent a significant chunk of my life on beaches from California to Alaska… I have to figure there were times when, if I had just been looking in the right place, or looking with a little more intent…
They aren’t being made anymore. Cheaper, more durable, plastic floats have taken over the scene (and I have found zillions of those.) They are utilitarian items, without craftsmanship or magic. Could it be that there are still some glass ones out there somewhere, waiting for me to find them? Maybe this year?

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