North America, United States
Located along the Mendocino Coast just outside of Fort Bragg in California; Glass Beach is a wonderful example of nature correcting the mistakes made by mankind.
The story of Glass Beach goes back to 1906 when an enormous earthquake hit California and reduced many buildings in Fort Bragg to rubble. When trying to rebuild their town the people of Fort Bragg found that they had more debris and rubbish than they knew what to do with. Their solution was to chuck it all into the ocean and let it float away. This plan was found to be somewhat flawed, however, when the rubbish simply did not float away and instead remained on the cove creating an unofficial “beach dump”. People continued to drop their rubbish here long after the earthquake clean-up was complete – in fact, it wasn’t until 1967 that the North Coast Water Quality Board created an official dump away from the ocean thus stopping people from dumping their rubbish onto the beach.
Now much of what was dumped onto the beach was burned but the glass dumped here could not be. This could have been dangerous had Mother Nature not had her way but thankfully years and years of pounding waves and tidal action have turned the previously dumped broken glass into millions of pieces of sparkling sea glass. Most of the sea glass is green, brown and clear as these were the most common colours of glass that humans disposed of but various other colours can be spotted including blue, red, pink, purple and lime green. A popular activity on Glass Beach is “treasure hunting” – trying to find as colourful and as valuable glass as possible although we warn you that to remove glass from the beach is forbidden – who would have thought that old rubbish would one day become protected!? The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” feels particularly apt here! The rarest, and as such the most precious, of the sea glass types is “Fire Glass” which is created, unsurprisingly, when sea glass passes through fire. These pieces of glass often have things inside them which make them, in certain cases, better than many precious gems!
To see such an incredibly beautiful place in what could so easily have been an environmental and aesthetical disaster is a truly awe inspiring experience and one which reminds us just how powerful and wonderful nature can be.
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