Calling All Ocean Sleuths: Natural Rubber Bales Wash Up on the Shores of Belize?

For WEEKS, I have been mildly obsessed with these strange rubbery blocks that I’ve found on Ambergris Caye.

There is one just a few hundred feet north of us – I saw one just a bit north of that.  And then my curiosity was LIT ON FIRE when we spotted one about 15 miles north – at Robles Point.


This is the bale? at about Mile 15, Ambergris Caye.

So I’ve done a bit of research (scientific…like measuring it and stabbing at it with a knife) – I’ve looked around the internet for information – and now I want to bring you into my whirling dervish of a mind.  Help!  Calling all Junior Sleuths, lovers of treasure and flotsam and jetsam.

Don’t get over excited…they are not THAT kind of bale.

Interesting fact:  It’s estimated that it takes 20 to 25 years for a piece of plastic to travel around the world by ocean.  (Just asked Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the oceanographer who specializes in Flotsametrics!)

I think these things are bales of rubber.  But what are they doing on Ambergris Caye?  And why did they just wash up over the last 2 months?  (Oops, there goes another rubber ship….)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted pictures – and found that these things have been spotted elsewhere in Belize.  Jody says he spotted one by Banyan Bay (about a miles south of San Pedro town.)  My friend Daniel – who says that his boys have identified them as “rabba bouncy tings” – has spotted them out at Turneffe Atoll…

This post:  Things that Wash Up On The Beach of Ambergris Caye will have to be updated!

Here are the photos I’ve taken.

For size, my machete is 30 inches long.

Rubber Bale

It is VERY heavy…I couldn’t move it.  But then I didn’t try TOO hard.  I did not want to anger the at least 50 (most likely Africanized) bees that seemed to be feeding on the sides of this.  Where the rubber was getting sticky and shiny.

Bees on Rubber Bale

This thing has been in the water for a while…it’s embedded with tiny snails and little mollusks.

I stuck this knife in about 2 inches – it feels like solid…rubber.

Let’s be clear that I did not come up with the “rubber bale theory” on my own.  I asked the internet about large blocks on rubbery substance washing up on sea shores around the world and found limited but VERY interesting stuff.

This woman wrote a really interesting and comprephensive blog post about mysterious bales of rubber sheets that washed up in Brazil.  Hers actually had a marking from a now-defunct rubber plantation in Malaysia…and she figured they were from a shipwreck.  INTRIGUING!

Photo from her blog post

There were similar bales in Cornwall, UK.

These – 200-300 washed up in Brazil along with an oil spill a few years back – look the most like mine!  Some of them are marked “French IndoChina” – a group of territories that existed from 1887 to 1954.  Take a look – is that my bale?

And here is a picture of a rubber bale from a manufacturing company outside of Akron, Ohio.  This absolutely looks like the shape of my find.

But obviously a whole lot cleaner.

I wrote them an email – and hope to get a response about my mystery black blocks.


Please let me know if you know what it is…or if you’ve seen more around Belize – especially floating in the water!  I’m now obsessed.  This is a mystery I must solve!

The prize for things that wash up on the shores of Ambergris Caye still goes to the Russian Satellite part that washed up just south of me earlier this year.


Still the winner.


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