A Bleak Shore

January 1st, 2013

It’s possible that I endured the highest air temperatures of my life, circling this death-encrusted inland sea, and it reminded me I was firmly in the desert, and this was never really a place for human life. Shoveling crushed ice onto my head helped a little, but there was ultimately no escaping the blazing sun that baked the carpet of dead fish and birds along the shore.

 

I’d long been engrossed by the story of the Salton Sea, an inadvertent desert ocean formed by a temporary diversion of the Colorado River, which briefly became a playground of marinas and watercraft. However, despite being a huge body of water, it had only evaporation to draw water from it, and suffered a steady inflow of irrigation runof. ┬áSo, with time, it became a massive concentration of fertiliser and agricultural waste. It began to stink and decay, and things began to die.

 

 

People still live here, decades on, in little communities, decrepit but occupied shacks alternating with grimy bones of mobile homes and bare expanses of encrusted salt. I slept on the ground by the sea, maybe on salt, maybe on sand, certainly on the crushed remains of the bird and fish population that bursts into existence then dies in waves of sun-baked corpses.

 

 

There’s ultimately nothing to see here, but I stood on the shore and looked at the water stretching off to the horizon in that way that only comes from being somewhere you’ve contemplated for a long time. There was that feeling of rendering something iconic and abstract into something real. There’s nothing to see, but was fascinating and worthwhile.

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