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Growing up in a DDT dumping ground

Rat beach near Torrance, California in 2010

Rat Beach in 2010

I came across the article below recently and was pretty floored.

“How the waters off Catalina became a DDT dumping ground” by Rosanna Xia for the LA Times, 25 October 2020

I grew up in Torrance till I was 5 and Palos Verdes until I was 13. I played in the ocean at Rat Beach all the time, caught tadpoles in the storm drain just next to PVBAC, went tidepooling in Abalone Cove. I had no idea about the Superfund site, this is the very first time I’ve heard of it. How on earth is that?

Lunada Bay in Southern California, 2010

Lunada bay in 2010

It looks like the Superfund site starts just south of Lunada Bay and gets worse as you pass Portuguese Bend down towards San Pedro (see map).

And now they’ve verified punctured DDT waste barrels that have been sitting on the sea floor just off Catalina, possibly since the 1980s. This could be three to four decades of leakage from up to half a million barrels.

They leaned in to examine an icicle-like anomaly growing off one of the barrels — a “toxicle,” they called it — and wondered about the gas that bubbled out when the robot snapped one off. To have gas supersaturated in and around these barrels so deep underwater, where the pressure was 90 times greater than above ground, was unsettling. They couldn’t help but feel like they were poking at a giant Coke can ready to explode.

Sea lions up and down the coast have been dying from it for decades, and still are. We eat a lot of seafood from these waters.

How can this possibly be cleaned up, and who on earth is going to pay for it? Certainly not the Montrose Chemical Corp. of California, they’ve been gone for years.

It’s just so exhausting. It feels like so many people’s jobs right this moment are simply running around slapping Bandaids left right and center, scrambling to fix what have become systemic problems caused by the poor decision making of people in the past. Lack of foresight, deliberately turning a blind eye, “we’ll deal with it later”, “it can’t possibly be that bad”. The environment, tech, policing, advertising.

So much firefighting.

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First Christmas at home

Dried orange ornaments on a Christmas tree

This is the first Christmas we’ve ever spent at home, not at Sam’s parents’ or mine. Both are just too far away, it wasn’t right to travel and the stress would have been unreal.

Because of that, this is the first time we’ve had a tree. We’ve accumulated ornaments over the years but they’re all packed away, so we decorated with an origami star, popcorn garland, red ribbon, and dried orange slices. Cadbury chocolate ornaments were an added bonus when a box arrived from Sam’s folks. We missed family and friends, NYE could not have been more different from last year, but it was a lovely quiet time.

We did a pretty traditional British Christmas dinner with bread sauce and Sam’s mom’s sticky toffee pudding. Also made a big batch of Cumberland sausage meat for pigs in blankets and then sausage rolls in the new year. We used this recipe for the sausage meat, but just used 20% fat minced pork instead of mincing our own. If I do it again, I’ll just buy dry toasted breadcrumbs instead of making our own. It was crazy simple though since we weren’t planning on stuffing sausage skins or anything. Would definitely make it again, though we’re trying to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating in the new year.

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Anemones and rock slides

Photo of Agate Beach near Bolinas during the Golden Hour with clouds in the sky

A tide pool at Agate Beach with an anemone

Haven’t been feeling great recently so a lot of weekends have been pretty quiet, but we finally got out a bit this past Saturday. Went to Agate Beach near Bolinas, low tide was around 3:30pm so we had lovely light. It had rained hard earlier so we kept hearing mini rockslides from the cliffs. A little ominous.

It was hard to see much since most of the pools were a bit murky, but we did see chiton, anemones, snails, crabs, and one hefty brown starfish. There was pink coralline algae encrusting most of the rock pools. I didn’t know what it was when we were there, thought it was so prevalent that it might be invasive. But it seems native from what I’ve read since. There was also one tiny creature that squirted water a foot in to the air, still no idea what that was…

Related: One of the rental properties at Sea Ranch has some really good tips about being a good tide pool steward.

Also related: Didn’t collect anything since foraging isn’t permitted on most public land in California. I’d love to get to Salt Point at some point though since it’s allowed there. Would probably mainly look for purple laver and nori. Samphire (pickleweed) should be prevalent in April/May, so maybe that would be a good time to go. Also hopefully this pandemic will be on the wane by then with the vaccine…

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Just what I needed

A photo of the North Fork of the American River near Clark’s Hole

I haven’t been posting much recently. There’s not a lot about this year that I’d like to remember. Of course there’s a ton that must be remembered, just not much that I’ll look back on fondly.

But we went swimming in the North Fork of the American River last Friday, that’s something to smile about. The heat radiated up off the path on our walk there and back. There was a big family enjoying the sun and water, and two girls chatting, standing in the shallows and drinking from a wine bottle. They warned us about the territorial crawdad near our toes.