By Amanda Dreyer
With water being the topic of discussion for May, we could think of no better way to “Keep FL Weird” than to list our Top 10 items that have washed up on our shorelines. This list may help you understand those folks walking around in full clothing frantically digging in the sand with metal detectors in hand, or, may have you deciding to stay inland for while. Either way, we hope you enjoy.
Drugs. Let’s just get this one out of the way. When it comes to unusual news stories unfolding along the beach, finding narcotics isn’t one of them. More bales of marijuana and bricks of cocaine have washed up on our sands, from Key West to Fort Lauderdale, than anywhere else in the nation.
Military Toys. South Beach worried their year might end with the wrong kind of bang in December when a bomb squad evacuated the beach to investigate a metal cylinder seen in the sand. Not to worry — it was just a military flare, probably the kind that burns brighter than the sun and makes you see spots for weeks. No biggie.
Dead people. This one is both sad and unnerving. Waterlogged bodies regularly show up on Florida beaches, from Miami, to Ocean Ridge, and well up into the Gulf Coast at an alarming rate. There are truly too many to list, and that’s not the kind of thing you can say about most seaside tourist destinations.
Severed limbs. While we’re on the subject of the grimmer things that have wound up in the Florida surf, St. Pete Beach has also had different, detached, body parts found by beach-goers. Truly makes you wonder how many TV shows are using real stories we may not want to know about.
Wildlife. On its face, the idea of animals winding up onshore doesn’t seem all that weird. But some of these creatures have been more than a little on the odd side. Sometimes they have been found alive, such as the full-grown crocodile in Hollywood, FL and the alligator in Miami. But some weird ones have also shown up dead, and it isn’t always clear how or why. Thousands of dead bees washed ashore in Naples, as well as a shark in New Smyrna Beach after something had eaten the rear half of its body.
Café cubano. I don’t care what type of coffee snob you think you are, if you went to the beach one morning and found hundreds of yards of coastline littered with fresh cans and packs of Cuban coffee, you’d want dibs. That’s exactly what the people of Indiatlantic were lucky enough to experience in 2015 after hundreds of coffee containers mysteriously (wondrously) turned up on their beach..
Tires. In the 1970s, the State of Florida, in its infinite wisdom, took on a project to build an artificial reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale by dumping 2 million tires into the ocean. The idea was that coral would grow on the tires and fish would come for the coral and people would come for the fish. The state could boost tourism and get rid of its garbage at the same time. Naturally, none of that happened. The tires not only were 100 percent ineffective as a place for coral to grow, but also essentially ensured the area they were dropped would remain uninhabitable.
Eight-foot-tall Lego men. (Yes, plural) Giant plastic Lego men have been found on a few beaches around the world sporting mischievous smiles and shirts with sayings that make little sense. In 2011, one showed up on Siesta Key in Sarasota wearing a green shirt that read, “No real than you are.”
Refugees. Persons displaced by dangerous conditions in their country of origin make up the most important part of this list, both because of how normal they are to most Miamians and because of the significance of that normalcy. Nowhere else in America do people arrive after taking to the open seas in search of freedom, hope, and a better life. Nowhere else can you see people running into the ocean to help starving and beleaguered immigrants fleeing from totalitarianism. It is a wholly unique thing, yet it is so completely central to the identity of Miami and South Florida, to the tapestry of what makes this place so special, that it doesn’t seem strange at all.