Is this the work of waves, a prankster or supernatural beings? The mystery of the white lines on a B.C. beach

An Indigenous leader from Haida Gwaii, B.C., says mysterious white lines he saw on a local beach are naturally created, but a scientist affiliated with the federal government is skeptical.

On Monday, Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor of Skidegate Band Council, posted several photos on Facebook showing some unusual grid lines formed by broken seashells that he observed Saturday on a beach on Lina Island.

“There were about 47 squares that were still visible on one row,” Yovanovich said. He estimates the squares were about seven feet long (more than two metres) and four feet wide (about 1.2 metres.)

The councillor said he had never seen lines of crushed shells vertical to the shoreline, but he believes it is a natural occurrence.

“There’s no way a person or people went there and arranged them like that,” Yovanovich told Carolina De Ryk, host of CBC’s Daybreak North. He said the rectangular patterns could be formed by what he calls “square waves.” 

“And some of our elders have said the supernatural beings may have had a hand in that,” the councillor said.

Richard Thomson, research scientist with the Institute of Ocean Sciences operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is unconvinced that the straight-line pattern on a beach in the remote archipelago off B.C.’s North Coast is a natural phenomenon. They may have been made by someone playing a joke or trying to spark controversy, he said.

“It looks to me like somebody is drawing with a bunch of sticks and made some grooves in the beach … and then came along with a bunch of shells they must have collected, and then filled in the grooves to make this criss-cross pattern,” said Thomson after seeing Yovanovich’s photos.

The scientist said the horizontal lines parallel to the shore could be formed from ocean waves flowing in and out, but the lines vertical to the shore look “man-made.”

“You would have to have Mother Nature acting on a very regular basis to move all of these materials around to produce such a regular pattern. You’d have to have a very special beach.”

Thomson said Yovanovich would need to conduct a research project investigating the beach’s geological structure, tidal movement and debris composition.

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