Picking up Plastic in the Rain

Last Saturday about 20 Whale Trail volunteers helped clean the beach at Lincoln Park in West Seattle.

Judy Lane, event organizer, signed us all in at Shelter 3, and then directed us to sections of the beach between the south entrance and the Whale Trail sign at Pt. Williams.

We were well supplied with buckets, picker-uppers (I have no idea what those long-armed tongs are called…) and bright orange vests from Seattle Parks Department.

Shortly after we set out, a serious squall set in. Drenched but undeterred, we scoured the beach as the tide crept out. Like crows, we poked in the nooks and crannies of the logs at the high tide line, looking for shiny things.

Among the kelp and leaves and seaweed and crabs –  things that belonged – we found plenty of things that didn’t: cans, bottle caps, candy wrappers, fishing lines, a cell phone, a bottle opener, and everywhere, styrofoam.

Four years ago, a gray whale came ashore at Arroyo Beach just south of the park, and died.  A necropsy revealed that his stomach was filled with trash and marine debris – most of it ingested 24 hours before he died. It wasn’t the cause of his death, but it was a shock to see what this bottom-feeding whale had consumed from our shores.

(The skeleton of that whale is now on display at MaST environmental center in Burien, WA. Well-worth a visit!)

Our buckets filled as the day went on. Three eagles kept us company, surfing the currents overhead. The wind died down, the rain slowed to a spit, and the sun finally came out between the clouds.

Barry White has captured it all wonderfully here:


Our first beach clean up was a soggy but unqualified success. Thanks to Judy Lane for having the idea and organizing; Starbuck’s for the very welcome coffee; Seattle Parks for the supplies;  Barry White for the video; and most of all, our hearty and fantastic volunteers: Dana, Bill, Bernie, Barry, Kieran, Robert, Stacy and family, and everyone else who turned out. See you at the next one!

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Donna's Bio

Donna Sandstrom has been interested in orcas since 1982, when she moved to Seattle. She saw her first orca from the deck of the Gikumi in Johnstone Strait in 1985.

Over the next years she produced events like OrcaFest 1995, and a symposium "Lolita Come Home" in 1996. She is expert at bringing diverse people together to achieve a common goal, a skill honed during her 14 years in software development at Adobe Systems.

In 2002, Donna was part of the effort to return Springer, an orphaned orca, to her pod and native waters on the north end of Vancouver Island. The project is the only successful orca rehabilitation in history. In July 2013, Springer was seen with her first calf!

Inspired by Springer's success, and alarmed at the plight of the southern resident orcas, Donna started The Whale Trail in 2008. Contact her at donna@thewhaletrail.org. 206.919.5397

The Whale Trail is a nonprofit organization in partnership with
Partners NOAA Seattle Aquarium People for Puget Sound Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife The Whale Museum National Marine Sanctuaries