Death on the Beach. January 2010.

This month the beach was covered with dead fish, large silver grey fish the size of dinner plates with tiny rows of dramatic teeth snarling out. Slowly, as the seagulls pecked out their eyes and time decayed the silver from the surface of their scales, they began to melt into the beach and lose their identity among the flotsam and the rubbish. Seaweed wound itself round their bodies and the tide slapped at them twice a day, lifting them up and throwing them down into new distortions of what they once were. A few were picked up by fishermen and marvelled about while they were still sleek, silver and bright eyed but most of them were left alone to stare out with empty eyes, only remarked on quietly by people as they passed. They wondered about them, complained about them, and finally forgot their idle curiosity as they went home, simply remarking that the beach was a mess. In time the waves grew weary of toying with them. The sea claimed their bodies back for itself when an early morning tide swept what was left of them back into deep water and uncovered a clear sunlit stretch of smooth sand, a fresh wind and a new beginning.

The fish were Rays Bream. They swim in shoals down on the south west coast where the water is warmed by the gulf stream. A big storm had pushed them along the English Channel and they had swum north, up the east coast into colder water. Uncomfortable and disorientated by the cold they had headed towards the warmer shallower water at the edge of the sea. Because of their large flat bodies they then found that they didn’t have enough depth to swim upright as they needed to and they were washed ashore by the wave action of a rough sea and grounded, alive and gasping.

It’s a harsh world out there for some of our fellow creatures.

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One comment on “Death on the Beach. January 2010.

  1. Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe says:

    I had read that these were being washed ashore all down the east coast, but what a find, Patricia, and what absolutely stunning photographs. I love the second one. The amount of decay and the sand cover makes the fish look almost as if it’s fashioned out of rotting, partially buried hessian. It has a wonderful textuality about it…and what an absolute contrast to the large, flat, oval- shaped specimen that it was only a few days before. xxx

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