From CHARLIE ELLIS: I remember when I was about 12 years old, or thereabouts, going by boat with my father up the Savannah River to Mulberry Grove.  There on the beach I found an old Civil War era bottle - I thought it was really a treasure, almost 100 years old.  Today, it would be closer to 150 years old, but from that moment on I have explored most of the Savannah River banks from the coast to above the State Docks, always looking to see what had washed up or washed out.  Along the way I have stumbled upon numerous large ancient shark's teeth, over 1500 old bottles, old ship parts, a large three-bladed airplane propeller from a crash, interesting driftwood, and even some human bones in an old wooden coffin washed from its grave.  Lately I have become much less selective in what I consider treasure - everyday items, thrown away or lost from boats, such as: combs, cigarette lighters, interesting shaped light bulbs, fishing gear, gloves, shoe soles, water guns, baby dolls or their parts, to name a few. 


Lighter Than Air, 2016

Cigarette Lighters, Acrylic on panel

25" x 38"


Plastic Cascade, 2018

Mixed media, thrown away plastics

Dimensions variable


The conclusion that I have lately reached is that our waterways are trashy places…this is not new news…they have been used as throwaway sites since we first came here, but most of the older trash was biodegradable and in time made its departure...but these days we have heeded Benjamin’s advisor in The Graduate and fallen in love with plastics....which, as we all know, have a long lingering death....I have collected large quantities of this stuff, ropes, nets floats, buoys, toys, etc...all are some form of plastic and all are either mindlessly thrown in the rivers or carelessly lost from boats, ships or people ashore...and people are 95% to blame ....ships and boats don’t discard this stuff, people do...anyhow, I have constructed large installations at my home using river rubbish as their focus...speaking of floats, or more specifically crab trap floats, I have a major concern...I have collected hundreds of these items and many people say ok so what?? But the dark side of this is that every float I recover washed ashore represents a crab trap lying on the bottom of the river full of crabs.... never to be harvested...and I have heard, this is not verified, that crabs are cannibalistic and continue to enter the trap and feed off the dead...who to blame?? Could be the crabbers, who often place their traps in mid-channel where they are easily hit by ships, tugs, large and small boats, often at night....and when hit the lines connecting float to trap are quickly severed...the float washes ashore and the trap becomes a dead end for many, many crabs....


All of our transportation routes are heavily trashed.... walk a mile on the shoulder of almost any highway and you will find many of the same items on our river banks.... cans, bottles, cups, food containers, chewing tobacco tins, Styrofoam, candy wrappers, etc....on the highway beer bottles and cans are a major problem....why?? Evidence, of course.... why keep incriminating evidence in your car when it can easily be tossed out of the window....

The shoreline is naturally the final resting place for all trash...and it accumulates month after month, year after year.... we have heard of the Pacific Ocean Gyre, which is an extremely large raft of litter bobbing about in the middle of the ocean...if and when this all washes ashore it won’t be my knowledge there isn’t anything similar to this in the my experience our Atlantic is virtually litter free....I have sailed across it four times on private sailboats and it is a very rare sight to see anything afloat between our shore and the European shore...

I have enjoyed my exploration of the Savannah River for some fifty gives me great pleasure to be out there on a cool sunny day with its surface reflecting the blue of a clear sky overhead...the river itself is a majestic waterway as ships, tugs, ferries and tour boats glide in and out...the downside is the shoreline which remains mostly out of view...will it ever return to a natural, litter-free state?? Probably will probably remain a repository for tons of unwanted materials...our River Keepers help, and we must give them credit for their efforts...will I continue to enjoy the glorious Savannah River?? Definitely...and may her tides continue their rhythmic ebb and flow.....

Charles Ellis III.   May 2018

Header Image:

Lighter Fish


Mixed Media

56" x 18"



Lighter Than Air, 2016


Plastic Cascade, 2018

Outdoor Installation