Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sea Glass Marbles - How Do They End Up On The Beach?

At left: A true, well pitted, blue swirl sea glass marble. Occasionally, a true sea glass marble piece can be found on the beach. It is very rare to find a marble or piece of a marble. Each of these was picked up by me along a Pacific Ocean beach. The rugged and rocky shores of the Pacific tumble our sea glass quite nicely. But why do we find marbles along the shore? How did it get there? What was it used for originally and why, so many decades later is it rolling around the beach?

I've heard several theories (and speak about them often at sea glass seminars) about why marbles occasionally wash up on the world's beaches.

Reason #1: Years ago, many ships were loaded with heavy items to help provide ballast. Marbles provided this weight inexpensively and effectively. In the Puget Sound where the tides move fast and the inlets can be narrow, ballast is key. It reminds me of the white water rafting trips my family goes on down remote Hells Canyon in Idaho's back-country. The heavier, more weighted-down boats fare much better in the turbulent rapids than the lighter rafts. Ships along the Pacific Ocean's rough shore needed this weight to help with navagibility. Yet should they be smashed upon the rocks, the boxes of ballast marbles would surely be lost to sea only to wash up on shore decades and centuries later.

Reason #2: Back in "the day", young children played often with sling shots and marbles for ammunition. And the beach made a great place for target practice. Some children played games by floating a "moving target" piece of driftwood off shore then shot their marbles out into the water toward the target. Some seagulls often became the moving targets also. The resulting marbles which layed just offshore, one day washed beachward.

Reason #3: Painters often dropped a handful of marbles into a can of paint to help mix the batch. When the paint was used up and the can was tossed into the city dump (often times the dump was the sea), the salt water and ocean's natural biodegrating ability decomposed the paint can over the years. The marbles became what was left and each washed around upon the shore until individually beach combed.

Look for photos of some of our rarest and oldest marbles in the August 2008 issue of National Geographic.
Occasionally we sell a rare marble on our website: Rare Marble
More About Sea Glass: West Coast Sea Glass - The internets fastest growing blog directory