Keeping Up With John Vonderlin….

John Vonderlin’s posts are fun to read; his curiosity is insatiable and he will soon know, intimately, every centimeter of sand on every beach south of Half Moon Bay.

Keep up with John, to read his stuff, click here

In 1968 John (at far right) made the cover of Life Magazine (a story about the contentious Democratic Convention in Chicago) –but he didn’t know he was in the photo until much later. I promise to post John’s story about this chapter in his life soon.


As If We Don’t Have ENUFF To Worry About….John Vonderlin Alerts Us To Sleeping Oil Monsters Off Our Coastline…


(Oil spill…photo courtesy Leon Kunke.)

Hi June,

If you’re a fan of shlock Japanese horror movies of the kaiju (monster) subset of the tokusatsu (special effects) genre, involving undersea monsters, you remember their typical opening with murky underwater shots, accompanied by the building of melodramatic, danger-portending music, ultimately showing something large and mysterious as it begins to stir.

Unfortunately, there are just such dangerous monsters lurking off our coast, veritable organic time bombs, waiting for their chance to spread death and destruction.

Only instead of the panic-stricken people of Tokyo, the victims of these impending scourges will mainly be the vulnerable animals that inhabit or use our coastal waters. If these “dirty bombsâ€? go off once again, tens of thousands of birds and other animals could be killed, industries could be crippled, and our world famous coastal natural beauty will be scarred for years to come.

I’m referring to sunken ships like the S.S. Jacob Luckenbach, that with its load of over 400,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil, was sent to the ocean’s bottom, in water 185 feet deep, 17 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge. Its trip to Davey Jones’ Locker, occurred on July 14th, 1953, when it collided with one of its sister ships, the Hawaiian Pilot, thanks to the egregious mistakes made by both pilots. The 468- foot, 8700- ton Luckenbach sank in 30 minutes with no loss of human life.

The Luckenback was a C3 Cargo Ship commissioned in 1943 as the Sea Robin, strangely just four months after the Hawaiian Pilot, was launched, as the U.S.S. Burleigh, from the same Pascagoula shipyard. While the U.S.S.Burleigh, had a distinguished record hauling needed supplies and men around the Pacific during the war, the Luckenbach, had to wait nearly sixty years before its name became well known. That happened in February 2002, when scientific analysis of an oil slick’s signature was connected to samples taken from dead oil-fouled birds gathered from the previous ten years.

Until that connection was made, nearly every winter from 1991 on, with some as far back as 1972, there had been a series of “orphan spills” or “Mystery Oil Spills of the San Mateo Coast,” that had repeatedly plagued our area from Marin to Monterey, killing upwards of 50,000 birds.

Continue reading “As If We Don’t Have ENUFF To Worry About….John Vonderlin Alerts Us To Sleeping Oil Monsters Off Our Coastline…”

The Crimes of Half Moon Bay…..? By John Vonderlin


Hi June,

J‘Accuse!,” my friends in Half Moon Bay.

Yes, I accuse your fair city and its residents and visitors of being responsible for the enormous amount of non-buoyant marine debris making the southward “Silent Procession” of which just a small portion is spit out by Neptune’s Vomitorium onto Invisible Beach. Through the carelessness of your industries, your recreational activities, and your improper disposal of no longer wanted items you are turning the ocean into a gigantic trash can. While it was the tracing of the golfballs and their remnants to the Ritz Carlton golf courses south of Half Moon Bay, that established the first point source I was convinced of, there was much earlier evidence of Half Moon Bay’s complicity.

Though the fishing and crabbing industry, both commercial and recreational, contribute a large portion of the debris to my collection, especially of the debris that has the potential of damaging marine life, I’ll leave that for another email. Instead, I’d like to focus on the types of debris that led me to identify Half Moon Bay and possibly its northern neighbor, Pacifica, as the sources of much of the stuff I was gathering.

Kayak shoes and swim goggles were what first piqued my interest and pointed me in the right direction..

Continue reading “The Crimes of Half Moon Bay…..? By John Vonderlin”