Davy Jones has been hoarding some wild things in his locker.
Shells. Driftwood. Trash. These items all wash up frequently on shorelines around the world. But what about the truly, headline-making bizarre trinkets? From plastic Garfield phones in France to ancient tombstones in San Francisco, here are 10 examples of jaw-dropping discoveries that locals were puzzled to find—and theories of just how they got there. Some of the mysteries were solved, others not quite yet.
We already know that seas and oceans are vast but when you read through these stories you’ll be reminded of the fact that the earth is filled with bodies of water that, like intricate puzzle pieces, keep us connected.
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WHERE: Brittany, France
That sassy animated lasagna-loving cat illustrated by Jim Davis in a series of comic strips beginning in 1978 led to branded products, including plastic phones. It’s one thing to buy, um, one or maybe two or three phones, but to see thousands littering an Atlantic Ocean shoreline was quite a sight for locals. Recently the mystery was solved when a farmer revealed he discovered a metal shipping container lodged in a cave post-storm. Could all this orange plastic be the makings of a future art installation?
Glass Fishing Floats From Japan
Up until the 1970s, deep-sea commercial fishermen in Japan relied upon glass floats to keep their fishing nets afloat. Crafted from green-blue, hand-blown glass, these floats were orb-shaped. Oregonians began to see them along the Pacific Ocean shoreline during the late 20th century, particularly on beaches between Newport and Astoria, evolving into a collector’s item.
Giant Lego Man
WHERE: Siesta Beach, Florida
It seems like the longer Lego sets stay in production the larger they become in scale. But no set sold at retail could top the sight of an eight-foot-tall Lego dude on a Sarasota, Florida, beach. Eventually, it was revealed this was a gimmick set forth by a local arts organization, to help promote the Sarasota Chalk Festival and a “next chapter” of the Lego guy’s 2007 appearance on a Netherlands beach. Also, the dude designed by Dutch artist Leon Keer—who was also responsible for the Netherlands stunt—was given a name: Ego Leonard.
Plastic Toy Eggs
WHERE: Langeoog, Germany
There’s a lot of talk about plastic washing up on beaches but at least these eggs—which locals soon learned were filled with toys!—are colorful and there’s some serious symmetry going on. As this story goes, the eggs fell off a cargo ship during a horrific storm dubbed Storm Axel. A local mayor unleashed kindergarteners on the beach to pick up these eggs and claim the prizes inside for the most memorable Easter egg hunt ever.
Challenger Spaceship Parts
WHERE: Cocoa Beach, Florida
As if the tragedy of this failed shuttle launch on January 28, 1986—coupled with the deaths of all seven crew members during the explosion—wasn’t enough heartache, locals had to revisit the pain for a decade after each time a part washed up on the beach. As the New York Times reported in December of 1996, two large chunks were discovered 11 years later, off the coast of Cape Canaveral (in Cocoa Beach) just like all the other pieces.
WHERE: Chesil Beach, Dorset, England
Clearly, a shipping job gone bad (or a broke smoker’s utopia?), this Bay of Biscay beach quickly became littered with thousands of packets of Marlboro cigarettes. Not empty packets. These were completely filled, ready to be sold at retail. Apparently, they slipped off a cargo ship and found refuge on the sandy shoreline. If this beach name sounds familiar, there’s a reason: an Ian McEwan novel of the same name (On Chesil Beach) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007.
Tombstones Dating Back as Far as 1890
WHERE: Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California
No, this was not a Halloween prank. Nor were these tombstones castoffs from a pop-up Halloween shop. They were constructed from marble and granite and the real deal. Due to severe winds in 2012, this popular beach—in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood just south of Golden Gate Park—served as the new home to the tombstones’ remnants, which were at one point repurposed as a seawall to help contend with the Pacific Ocean’s choppy waves.
Harley-Davidson Motorcycle From Japan
WHERE: Graham Island, British Columbia, Canada
The 2011 tsunami that shook Japan’s Northern coast (and claimed 15,000 lives) had ripple effects on the other side of the Pacific Ocean when a man walking on a British Columbia beach discovered a Harley-Davidson motorcycle within a storage container. While the abandoned Night Train bike was already an odd find, even more intriguing was that the owner lived a continent away. That the bike held Japanese plates and the VIN number was still readable inspired the hunt for its owner. Harley-Davidson gave him a new bike and his old one is on permanent display at Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.
WHERE: Miami, Florida
ABC News called it the “mystery piano” and that pretty much sums up the situation. But this didn’t stop all the questions. Had the grand piano slipped out of a yacht, boat, or cargo container? Did someone literally take it from their residence to the beach? Did it fall out of the sky? Turns out it was none of those. The Harrington family lowered it from their home during a New Year’s Eve party and set it ablaze.
WHERE: Norfolk, England
These weren’t just stray pipes. The four humungous plastic ones that washed up on shore (others remained lost at sea) were eight feet in diameter and as long as 1,574 feet. Cool photo opp, right? As citizen detectives along with city officials got on the case, it was discovered that the pipes were en route to Algeria when they went overboard after a tug boat was slammed by a container ship. But because the time at sea damaged the pipes, preventing them from future use, they were instead recycled in Denmark.