Lake ball

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This article is about the naturally formed spheres of surface debris. For the spherical aquatic plant, see Marimo.
Lake ball on the southern shore of Ögii Lake, Arhangay, Mongolia

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.[1][2][3]

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


  1. ^ Kindle, E M (Nov 1934). "Concerning "Lake Balls," "Cladophora Balls" and "Coal Balls"". American Midland Naturalist. The University of Notre Dame. 15 (6): 752–760. doi:10.2307/2419894. JSTOR 2419894. 
  2. ^ Huntsman, A. G. (August 1935). "ON THE FORMATION OF LAKE BALLS". Science. 30 (2122): 191–192. doi:10.1126/science.82.2122.191. 
  3. ^ Osis, Vicki (2001). "Flotsam, Jetsam, and Wrack" (PDF). Oregon Sea Grant.