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Pine Needle Balls

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving day, my grandson, Michael, was very proud to show us this discovery he had come upon during an excursion at Seeley Lake. We had never even heard of these pine needle balls! I found them absolutely fascinating and came home to look up anything I could find about them.

First this:

Larch balls

A specific type of lake ball, a larch ball is a structure created when Western Larch needles floating in a lake become entangled in a spherical shape due to the action of waves. They are most commonly known to form in Seeley Lake, Montana; however, they have also been known to form in similar regions such as Clark Fork and lakes in Tracy, New Brunswick such as Peltoma Lake, Big Kedron Lake, and Little Kedron Lake. Typical specimens are 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) in diameter. More rarely, larger ones are found.

Then this:

In 2015, WLI discovered perfectly formed larch needle balls along a small shoreline reach of Whitefish Lake in about two feet of water. Although balls comprised of organic matter (in this case larch needles) are uncommon, they have been reported worldwide and are often called surf balls or beach balls. Gift shops are known to sell these oddities as whale burps, whale barf balls, whale fur balls and moose balls. Unique conditions are needed to form these balls. It is suspected that they are formed from surf action along the shoreline where as waves approach; they drag on the lake bottom, causing the wave crest to curl and crash onto the beach. The curling action may roll materials into a ball. However, the balls found in 2015 were within five feet on one another, suggesting other specific local conditions. These unique creations from Mother Nature are on display at the Whitefish Lake Institute office in Whitefish. Pine balls from Lindbergh Lake can be found at the Stumptown Historical Society in Whitefish, and from Kintla Lake at the Polebridge Mercantile in Polebridge.

And finally, this: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia A lake ball (also known as a surf ball, beach ball or spill ball) is a ball of debris found on ocean beaches and lakes large enough to have wave action. The rolling motion of the waves gathers debris in the water and eventually will form the materials into a ball. The materials vary from year to year and from location to location depending on the debris the motion gathers.

The earliest known reference to lake balls is Walden: There also I have found, in considerable quantities, curious balls, composed apparently of fine grass or roots, of pipewort perhaps, from half an inch to four inches in diameter, and perfectly spherical. These wash back and forth in shallow water on a sandy bottom, and are sometimes cast on the shore. They are either solid grass, or have a little sand in the middle. At first you would say that they were formed by the action of the waves, like a pebble; yet the smallest are made of equally coarse materials, half an inch long, and they are produced only at one season of the year. Moreover, the waves, I suspect, do not so much construct as wear down a material which has already acquired consistency. They preserve their form when dry for an indefinite period. — Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 9

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1 Comment

Jan 09

Those are amazing! Never heard of them before, thought it was just another crafty thing you'd

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