Chilly swim yields treasure

A Ucluelet local’s morning jog turned into a morning swim on Monday when she spotted a coveted glass fishing float bobbing in the ocean near Amphitrite Point.

Laura Griffith-Cochrane was running along the Wild Pacific Trail around 8 a.m. and was nearing the Amphitrite Lighthouse when she saw what appeared to be a glass ball.

“I was going along towards the lighthouse and looked out and saw it floating in the ocean and got really excited,” she said.

Glass balls were used by Norwegian fishermen as floats for fishing nets in the 1800’s and this flotation technique was adopted throughout Europe and Japan by the early 1900’s. Most of the balls floating in the ocean today originate from Japan because Japan’s fishing industry made massive use of the technique utilizing balls of different colours and sizes “Back in the day in Japan they would use nets to catch fish and there would be a glass blower who would make different sized glass balls so the net would float,” Griffith Cochrane explained. “A lot of them have been floating in the ocean sometimes for a hundred years or more.”

She said the balls would become detached from nets and wind up circling through the North Pacific

Gyre where currents would bring them to the West Coast’s shores.

Authentic glass balls are heavily coveted so when Griffith-Cochrane saw what appeared to be one it was not a sight she could just jog past.

She found Wild Pacific Trail manager “Oyster” Jim Martin working on the trail and asked if he had a set of binoculars to see if it was in fact the treasure it appeared to be.

“We went out and took a look from the beach and we could see the light shining through it and that it actually was a glass ball,” she said.

“We were trying to figure out how we were going to get it out of the ocean so I just jumped in and went for a swim; it was very cold.”

Griffith-Cochrane has jumped into the West Coast’s ocean without a wetsuit before so she was aware of how chilly her adventure would be but she braved it anyway to secure her prize.

It is the first time she has ever retrieved a glass ball and she is excited to share her discovery.

“I’m stoked,” she said adding her mother had long searched for glass balls during her years on the ocean but always came up snake-eyes.

“She worked as a nurse for all the lighthouses and all the people living on the Coast between Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island and she was always hunting for (glass balls) and all those years on the boat she never found one.”

The ball is covered in pelagic gooseneck barnacles and Griffith-Cochrane said it will be kept at the Ucluelet Aquarium so the barnacles can thrive and patrons can check out an authentic glass ball.

“We’re going to keep it in the aquarium so the (barnacles) can stay alive and we can show it off a little bit through the summer and then I’m going to keep it forever,” she said.