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Fine finds in the Rhine

Fine finds in the Rhine
plastic (younger) and ceramics (older) at Rhine low water beach cleanup

Nearly one year ago in November 2011 I made my low water beach cleanup at Rhine River Düsseldorf, Germany - a short report by Naemi Reymann

Rhine Panorama (N.Reymann)

For weeks, it has not rained. The Rhine has low water. Now the beach areas at this big river are huge. So huge, that you are able to see the groynes on the Oberkassel water side.  The district Oberkassel is directly located in front of the well known Old Town and the Town hall of Düsseldorf. Now many signs of the waterway especially the buoys who show the shallows are lying dry on land. Much trash and debris can also be seen on the Rhine kilometer 745th – particularly at the large bridge piers at Oberkassel bridge and the embankments of stones.

I use the new wide beach-Rhine view for making some photos. For me as a designer a pleasureful thing. Like an expedition well knowing that this dry beach zones will only be seen for a small period of time. One year ago I learned how to assist underwater archaeologists by marking a course at the Nautical Archaeological Society based at Portsmouth England – as a scuba diver. I learned how to make an announcement of a find, how to behave, to describe and to assist at a survey. Now I started my own small field studies...

I'm waiting some days before starting my walk. First police and specialist should be looking for dangerous rests of last war. Düsseldorf has be attacked at World War II very much. So many years after its end military finds are still made. At City of Koblenz for example at this winter 45,000 people has to be evacuated from their homes for some hours because a huge aircraft bomb has be found at the ground of the Rhine River during the period of low water! And indeed a well known archaeologist from Düsseldorf city told me that they found some rests of old munition like an artillery shell at the water side of Rhine.

I‘m curious if waste has been removed from the Rhine bank area. So I went for a walk, combining fun and a usefulness: making a beach cleaning. Finally, all garbage and other than small (plastic) waste granules are travelling in our oceans – sooner or later ... And so everybody can do a little bit to avoid this! I'm not so straight as other people, for example Sara Bayles, she startet a very impressive project: 365 non-consecutive days of collecting, weighing, and documenting beach trash at her beach at Ocean park, Santa Monica CA. Her blog is called »The Daily Ocean«. My walk with collecting (and impact) is much smaller... But in my opinion every person is able to do something and together it will be much!

Back to Düsseldorf: On the city side of the Rhine River opposite, there is a cross-country event. The atmosphere there is as fair. It is free of snow and so much snow has been taken from an indoor ski hall from the neighboring town. I go to the bank of the district of Oberkassel to search. Perhaps there is even a part of old Düsseldorf city history? Unlike the Lahn-Survey of last summer where I helped and worked as a scubadiver – now during this »mission« it is almost possible for me to stay dry. And the view is even better. Some comforts in winter time... And there is much to see at this day!

For example an old bumper of a 60ies Volkswagen Beetle sticking in the sand. Very decorative! Otherwise, the usual finds: big tires, a bicycle and a cart. I met a passer-by with a big piece of shaped wood under his arm . It looks like a part of the rudder of an flatbottom boat. I hoped instantly that he will go directly to the »Schifffahrtsmuseum«, the Maritime Museum at Düsseldorf, and report his find.


Rhine finds younger (N.Remann)

My Rhine finds Part 1:
Anorak, batteries, construction workers glove, frying pan, synthetic bed fleece, bags of chips, chip roll pieces, spoons for ice cream made of plastic, fast food food packaging, cigarette lighters, fish indicator (for fishing), photos, curtain with lead weight chains, shirts, jacket, caps from PET bottles, bottle caps, plastic strips, medical supplies, metal items from the scaffolding, metal cables with plastic insulation, a piece of fabric printed with camouflage patterns (from fishing or military - who knows?), a mobile, picnic leftovers in plastic bags, plastic cups, cutlery, plastic, plastic bags, cleaning cloths of ships. Also many blue shards of beer bottles with silver labels (»Mit Verantwortung genießen« which means »enjoy with responsibility« is the slogan of this dark beer manufacturer that does not seem to relate to the behavior of its consumers, the »party people«), six shoe soles, cables of steel, power cables piece, shoes, screwdriver, tennis sock (a jester has filled with stones and tied together to make a joke), carpet, plastic cover of drinking cups, water bottles, drinking straws, plastic, many vodka glass bottles, an orange plastic warning light piece of glass, a diaper (filled), and much more.

I also found compostable material: banana peels and a large number of onion skins. I was a little bit surprised and thought by myself: What for the hell do they eat during travelling by ship? Is there a secret recipe for meals consisting of banana and onion? I deposit the lighter part in waste baskets, the heavier of a bridge pier and call the municipal waste Office and the Department of Environmental Protection. Hoping for quick pickup and went home to clean my muddy shoes and parts of the pants.

Rhine finds old objects (N.Reymann)

My Rhine finds Part 2:
I brought a few parts of pottery to the »Hetjens Museum« (the German Ceramic Museum here in Düsseldorf). A few days later I got a letter in which a ceramics specialist from the museum kindly describes my discoveries precisely. It's also great that I can get back my findings and so I took them home. Even better it would have been of course to discover something really important. A friend of me, a well known underwater archaeologist asked me if I found very old things. Unfortunately my town Düsseldorf is not so old compared to next towns in the neighbourhood Neuss or Cologne, where Romans settled... But it's also a great souvenir for me!

The three gray pieces of a wall of a bottle, the bottom piece and the vessel mouth with the stone in it come from mineral water bottles made of stoneware, which were produced in the Westerwald (»The Western Forest« situated in the Rhine Massif). The oldest dates from about the middle of the 19th Century, all the others are a bit younger. The bottle pieces were originally a dark brown color. Now they are brighter, because the dark clay coating was ground off in the water. Bottled water was very precious at earlier time. It was considered as a healing water, sold at high prices at the pharmacy. The piece, which I thought it was old, proved to be the most profane: the big piece with the wavy pattern is a piece of Eternit. Eternit is commonly used for roofing. When I think that this material contains asbestos, I do not like to imagine what is solved to poisons in the Rhine by and by!

The plates are made of porcelain fragments in the 1930s to 1950s, the pattern is still there as a decorative porcelain. The stoneware piece with the grooves could be from the first half of the 20th Century, as well as the bottle closure made of porcelain which is a flip top closure. This was used for the mineral water bottles made of stoneware but also for glass bottles. Nowadays, some beer bottles have still such a clip lock. Now beer (the »Altbeer«) is still a popular drink in this town, there are still many breweries. Maybe you know the german song »Altbierlied« from 1986 about »the largest counter in the World« (Düsseldorf), sung by the punk band »Die Toten Hosen«...

A little journey into the history of the city of Düsseldorf. And who knows, maybe my grandparents living here in this city have seen old ceramic pieces or  trash while walking along the Rhine River?