Haruka Sakaguchi

Greetings from the Salton Sea

Blue hour sets in. There is no distinction between sky and ocean – just the tide disappearing seamlessly out into the horizon. It is deafeningly quiet, aside from the gentle ebbing of water and the occasional crunch of delicate tilapia skeleton under my feet.

The Salton Sea is a vast saline lake located in the Californian badlands. Once known as “the miracle in the desert,” the lake was surrounded by resort towns and frequented by Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s. However, a combination of agricultural pollution, increasing salinity and algal blooms killed off the fish species in the late 50s and early 60s, causing thousands of carcasses to rise to the surface and wash up onto the shore. Disturbed by the fossilized fish remains and the subsequent smell, beachcombers and investors headed elsewhere, turning this area into a ghost town marked by abandoned motels and rogue trailers in various stages of decay.

“Decay is the future,” a resident of nearby Bombay Beach told me. Blistering hot temperatures, poor air quality and saline degradation are a regular part of life for the very few people who, more often than not, choose to live here. For full-time residents of the Salton Sea, decay is both mundane reality and romantic ideology.

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