CLOSE
Original image

Armchair Field Trip: Stearns Wharf

Original image


I just got back from a week in Ojai, CA, a destination worthy of its own post. But we're going to focus on a stop my wife and I (and our nearly-two-year-old son) made at Stearns Wharf, in Santa Barbara, CA. If you haven't been, this is the oldest working pier in California.

Built in 1872 by a lumber tycoon named John P. Stearns, the pier held the distinction of being the longest deep-water pier between L.A. and San Fran during the late 1800s, a pretty important fact given the dearth of railroads.

It served cargo ships, mostly, and then, during prohibition, rumrunners and gamblers on floating casinos. Ultimately, it was turned into a naval installation during WWII. (Santa Barbara was actually hit by enemy fire during the war!).

Also during the war, the Harbor Restaurant opened, and it's still in business today. We thought about having a nosh there, but my son was overwhelmed by the pelicans and fishermen.

Today, it's all mostly a tourist trap, and you can drive your car on the pier and buy candy, overpriced chachkies, and watch the pelican kickboxing matches. Oh, what? You don't believe me?


We caught a bit of the illegal activity on our little HD flip camera.

Original image
©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
Original image
©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

Original image
YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
Original image
YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios