Statewide: January 13, 2011 Archive
A Duluth beach walker came across these balls of fibrous stuff on a beach near the city's Lakewalk, not long after a New Year's Eve storm. The round bundles -- about the size of a plumb -- seemed to combine plant material and other things tightly wound with bits of plastic.
He left the bundles with his dad, long time resident Glenn Maxham, who took the oddities to the experts at Minnesota Sea Grant, a group that works to help preserve Lake Superior and its shores. Its members identified the things as "whale burps."
Also known as surf balls, they're are fairly common on ocean beaches worldwide.
But the source isn't as cute as the name. The balls apparently start with human junk, like left over fishing line, or in this case, some kind of partially degraded black plastic mesh. Whipped by a good wind, the plastic rolls along a beach, picking up seaweed, twigs, grass, shell fragments or what ever gets in the way.
Sea Grant notes the damage discarded plastics do on water bodies worldwide. When the plastics break down they release suspected cancer-causing chemicals like styrene monomer and bisphenol A, also known as BPA. Sea Grant quotes a United Nations Environmental Program estimate that some 46,000 pieces of plastic float in every square mile of ocean.
Even on Lake Superior, about a third of the refuse collected in an annual beach clean up is plastic, trailing only behind cigarette butts, which account for half.
Sea Grant suggests no need to wait for the annual beach cleanup. Anyone can grab a plastic bag and hit the beaches, providing, of course, they're not currently covered in snow.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz will host a "Congress on your Corner" stop in Mankato on Friday, less than a week after a shooting rampage in Tuscon that killed six and injured 15, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Walz, a Democrat from Mankato, announced the stop as a way to show his office will continue to host open forums with public access, despite growing concern from lawmakers on security issues.
"Hearing the thoughts and ideas of southern Minnesotans is the cornerstone of our representative democracy," Walz said in a statement. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to hear from folks."
Since the shooting, the discussion over safety has re-emerged among politicians, who are struggling to balance their own safety concerns with an open democracy. Members of Congress were also briefed on security measures by the FBI and the Capitol Police.
Earlier this week, Walz told the Mankato Free Press he was shaken by the attack on his friend.
Walz's meeting will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Mocol's Super Market, 1001 N Broad Street in Mankato.