Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Salton Sea Oddities

Mecca, California – January 9, 2007

They made a bad movie here in 1957 about a giant radioactive sea cucumber that menaced the world. There was a strange man-sized piece of gelatinous protoplasm floating offshore last night. The little piles of dead fish on the shore appear to have been sucked completely dry through identical sets of mysterious puncture wounds. The front of the RV is covered with thick, whitish slime, apparently some type of marine secretion.

There are ice crystals in the stratosphere this morning, and one of those huge, bright rings around the moon caused by the reflection of moonbeams at a 22 degree angle through the crystals.

East of San Diego, the Salton Sea sits several hundred feet below sea level in a desert valley surrounded by mountains. The “sea” is about 30% saltier than the ocean. It is the largest lake in California.

This was once part of the Sea of Cortez. About 500 years ago it dried up as the weather became more arid and silt from rivers filled in the ocean basin.

In 1905, the Colorado River broke its banks in Yuma, Arizona and filled in the basin forming a 350 square mile lake. After that a series of hydro-electric dams were built to tame the river. The lake evaporates about six feet a year, but rivers flowing in from Mexico and agricultural run-off keep the lake depth fairly stable.

The lake gets saltier every year, but it has only 10% of the salt of the Great Salt Lake, so it still supports a large fish population and millions of aquatic birds.

The surrounding area is part desert, but much of it is used for agricultural purposes. We see huge fields of lettuce, grapes, date palms and orange trees.

The California Parks Department vehemently denies that the Salton Sea in unhealthy in any way, except for too much salt. Untreated industrial waste and raw sewage flow into the lake from Mexico.

The Parks Department denies that Selenium levels are excessive, although the fish tissue concentration of selenium "has resulted in a health advisory warning to the public". They also deny that the untreated sewage flowing over the international border is harmful, "since most of the E Coli is no longer viable by the time it empties into the Salton Sea"

Notwithstanding, I have pictures of thousands of small, rotted, dead fish on the beach. It does look like the Red Tide on Florida beaches. The beach is made up of thick deposits of what looks like salt water barnacles.

We decide to camp here a few days an explore some of the nearby National and State Parks.

Here are a few pictures of the desert and lake creatures.


  1. My inlaws used to vacation at the Salton Sea every winter. The image of all the bones in the hand, so sad. So evocative.

  2. The things in my hand are barnacle shells which are several feet deep on the shore...I've concluded that the seabirds are overfed and only eat the choicest parts of the little fish, leaving the head and tail to dry on the beach...a weird place...