The Soles of Galveston

By Katherine Pollock

Tally Calvert’s “Wall of Lost Soles.” Courtesy Photo

During my years of beachcombing I’ve met collectors of just about everything I could imagine you will find on the beach. It wasn’t until last year that I heard about a gal from Galveston that had a unique collection of beach finds from the west end. I guess you could call her a beachcomber with a shoe fetish.

 Tally Calvert has been beachcombing the island since she was a little kid; like most of us, with a couple of dogs splashing in the surf and pocket bulging full of sea beans. Bothered by the increasing amounts of trash washing up, Tally began picking it up and hauling home to dispose of. 
For some reason she kept the shoes and nailed them to her fence in the backyard. Perhaps there was an allure of who owned them or where they came from. 
But one question that arose was “Where is the mate?” She dubbed the fence, “The Wall of Lost Soles.” You rarely find a matching set of washed up shoes.
Tally became aware of an oceanographer named Curt Ebbesmeyer at the annual Sea Bean Symposium in Florida. Curt studies flotsam, including shoes, from his home state of Washington. His passion for studying ocean currents and the paths flotsam takes developed from the accidental deposit of over 60,000 Nike shoes into the Pacific in 1990. 
A cargo ship carrying a load from Asia lost several containers of shoes in a storm. A year later the shoes began washing up on beaches in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Tally became acquainted with Curt and he began sending her forms to record her findings on Galveston beaches and sending him the data. She is one of only three or four people in the world that records shoe findings on the beach. 
Of all the data collected about shoes, Galveston’s is the most skewed. Tally’s tally of shoes reported that 80 percent of shoes that washed up on our beaches are left shoes. 
 Apparently the Gulf Coast currents favor the left. Curt’s data has shown that it does make a difference to the direction flotsam travels.
If you are interested in becoming flotsamologist you can begin by reading the fascinating book by Curt Ebbesmeyer, “Flotsametrics and the Floating World.” 
In his early days of beachcombing, Ebbesmeyer refers to Galveston as a prime wash up beach that would prove a treasure trove in his future beachcombing. The beach has not disappointed, even many years later.

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