“(According to Maritime Law), Flotsam is floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; while Jetsam is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposely cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in time of distress and is washed ashore.” – Wikipedia

I walk two of our three beaches every day; the third beach on the weekends and the entire island shores every few months and along the way I pick up any rubbish that has washed up.

At one point I started photographing the weird and wonderful finds I discovered on the beach; from children’s plastic toys to jandals (flip-flops) to plastic clothes pegs. Eventually I started photographing the recurring rubbish washing up; the balloons, the plastic bait and ice bags, the burley bags, the rope and more. The rubbish from fisher people – including fishing line – is the most frustrating and also avoidable.


Every so often I’ll post a photo to Facebook of the rubbish I’ve picked up in one day as a way of recording my findings. One of these photos was shared about on Facebook by a beach state park in New Jersey, America and my post consequently received over 40 times the usual views my photos normally receive. The comments swiftly rolled in and I was surprised at the passionate responses; either thanking me for my selfless work; or furious at people for littering our beaches and our seas. I was embarrassed as my photo was of a ‘clean green New Zealand beach’ and not an American beach.

Balloon flotsam

A photo of a balloon washed up on the beach with its string wrapped around a twig, received the same fervent responses. Many people don’t think about what happens when they let a balloon go; but I can tell them the balloon certainly doesn’t go to heaven…

I’ve begun to think some photos of beach rubbish (and beach art) tend to romanticise rubbish, rather than cause awareness and encourage people to change their habits.

I believe if I walked around an Auckland city block and picked up the rubbish I found along the way and posted the photo to Facebook, there wouldn’t be such an ardent response. Yet if we picked up the rubbish off our streets before it ended up in the waterways and eventually our seas, there would be less plastic washing up on our beaches and being eaten by our fish.

However, from a curiosity point of view, I do have a few favourite beach finds.

Once Upon An Island ted

This guy is my favourite. Ever. He opportunistically washed up wearing his own life ring. Priceless right?

I googled him, and discovered he’s Ted, a Chipmunk, from the movie ‘Chip Wrecked’. A good movie by all accounts according to my young niece.

Ted washed up during what I call a ‘plastic storm’ – somehow the tides, currents and winds collide and wash ashore a huge raft of plastic, including bottle caps, straws and plastic containers.

brain Once uon an island

Another discovery made my heart thump and my stomach drop; a brain. A brain just sitting on the sand, caught up amongst tree roots, all pink and bulbous. As I got closer I realised it was a plastic soft toy, which begs the question who would own a brain toy?


And then there was the tennis ball called Wilson the second; and a Minion playing a guitar; and an army man who had been at sea for a while judging by his limpet encrusted legs – and the occasional coconut to add to that real island living feeling.

Beach clean-ups are never dull….

About Me:

I’m Fiona (Fe). For the past six years I’ve lived on tiny, privately owned Islands in New Zealand with my partner who is an Island caretaker. I’ve developed Islomania (an obsessional enthusiasm or partiality for islands); particularly around bird life, beach clean-ups and pest eradication.