Friday, July 13, 2012

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Sea Treasure

We enjoy collecting souvenirs from our cruise travels just as much as the next person, but we usually buy them, so I was surprised to read in Bermuda's The Royal Gazette that my fellow passengers were stealing Bermuda's treasures. And I'll bet they didn't even realize they were doing something that local residents consider seriously wrong. The paper reports that Bermuda's West End residents claim visiting cruise ship passengers are taking large quantities of sea glass from Bottle Beach.

One resident, who admitted that she herself has taken pieces of glass from the beach, told the Gazette reporter, “Today I was sitting on a bench outside and was horrified to see two cruise ship passengers walking along with enormous plastic bags filled up to the brim with sea glass.” She added, “I was told of two tourists who went to the beach with five-gallon buckets and filled them up and took them back to the ship. I am so angry I could spit. I am appalled. You are not allowed to take sand, shells, coral or sea fans out of Bermuda. Why allow sea glass? Once the sea glass has all gone, that’s it. It’s too terrible.”

You might wonder what so-called sea glass is and why it might have any value. Quite simply, it's formed from glass objects that have been tossed in the sea (think beer bottles). After it's been broken up and weathered smooth by the action of salt water and sand, it's often washed ashore. Sea glass is found not only on beaches throughout Bermuda, such as Bottle Beach, it's also common in the Caribbean. The necklace pictured here featuring a sea glass pendant is one I purchased from a local jewelry crafter in Grand Turk. With a few beads, a leather thong, and some silver wire to surround the sea glass, the creative jewelry maker sold it to me for about $25.

With the amount of glass that's discarded in the sea, I doubt that co-called sea glass will ever totally disappear from the beaches. What really captured my attention in the Gazette news story was the local woman's assertion that the removal of sand from Bermuda is not allowed. Many visitors are enchanted by the island's beauty and the pink sand beaches add to the allure. Is it really against the law to scoop some sand into a baggie and bring it home with you? I searched for an answer and came up empty handed about the legality of the practice, but I do have a small bottle of Bermuda Pink Sand.

My container of pink sand was purchased in a gift shop at King's Wharf nearly twenty years ago on my first trip to Bermuda. It was bottled by The Pink Sand Project of the Mental Health Services at St. Brendan's Hospital. The project, which offered me a way to take a bit of Bermuda home, also provided a meaningful activity for those suffering from mental illnesses. I'm not sure if anything similar is still available, but there certainly was a "legal" way to bring home sand from Bermuda beaches that benefited the community. If you're leery about openly collecting sand at the beach, you could always wait until you are back on the ship and pour the sand that's collected in your shoes into a bag.

Photos © Linda Coffman,


wftristan said...

I also read the article about the Sea glass, I sure if people turned up and took a few pieces locals wouldn't mind but 5 gallons worth is a bit excessive, I wouldn't be impressed if people started taking huge amounts of sand/pebbles from my local beach.


Linda Coffman, AKA Cruise Diva said...

I agree, Tristan. Vistors should leave the beaches as they found them.

However, the comments by the local woman on the size of the tourists' containers may have been somewhat exaggerated--a 5-gallon bucket would be huge and really heavy if completely full of sea glass.