Have you seen our newest souvenir? Popular amongst beachcombers all along the Pacific Ocean, these antique Japanese glass balls were once used by fishermen to keep their fishing nets afloat. Although these glass balls are no longer used, many are still afloat in the world’s oceans and some have even washed ashore here on Haida Gwaii.
Most glass floats in the world are scattered amongst the North Pacific Ocean and Coast. This is due to the extensive use of glass floats by the Japanese peoples dating as far back as 1910. Most glass floats found on Haida Gwaii originate from Japan who call these glass balls ukidama, and are brought to our shores by a global circular current system in the Pacific Ocean. This is why glass balls can be found on Haida Gwaii and often have Japanese markings. That means these glass floats have travelled over 6,800 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean.
The shape of these glass floats can vary; we find the round ball-shape to be the most commonly found here, but we have seen other shapes as well. The Japanese experimented with different shapes for these floats, the most common being the spheres, and less common in the shape of a rolling pin.
The glass balls vary in colour too depending on the amount of sun exposure, the type of glass used, and the amount of erosion that the sphere endured before it was found. Most glass floats appear to be a beautiful emerald green colour because of the colour of the recycled sake bottles the Japanese typically used to create these glass floats. The Japanese markings we see on many glass floats are the markings of the Japanese company that manufactured them.
Glass floats are a rare find and have become a popular collectors’ item among beachcombers and visitors alike. They make a beautiful decoration for homes and they are a simple keepsake to bring home. Many believe these glass floats contain the spirit of the Ocean within them – a lasting memory from your trip to Haida Gwaii.