For over 400 years, a small island off the coast of the Netherlands has been home to beachcombers. Texel Island has a unique geography, with tidal mud flats between the island and mainland that collect items from the sea as the tide flows in and out of inlets. Generations of Texel Islanders have collected the objects that wash into the mud flats, and several have created informal museums of their finds.

A short documentary on Vimeo tells the story of several beachcombers. They collect everything, from tools to stuffed animals to car parts. “Everything we’ve got in the shed has its own story,” one beachcomber says. “You never know what you’re going to find, and it’s different every day.” Among his finds: an airplane propeller, a chart table from a ship, and a parrot in a cage.

Shoes are a common find. In the video, another beachcomber shares the strange fact that only left shoes end up at Texel Island; because of the shape of the shoes, they’re carried differently in the currents. Right shoes are pulled in the direction of England and Scotland. Another common find are messages in bottles, and one beachcomber reported finding more than 500 of these.

Today, finds also include boxes from container ships traveling through the North Sea, with contents ranging from fur coats (everyone on the island started wearing fur coats, one islander reports) to bicycle wheels. One rule has developed in the Texel Island culture: Whatever washes up from the sea belongs to the islanders.

Watch the video above to learn more about how geography has shaped the culture of Texel Island.

Image credit: Flickr user andrebiazoti 

Video credit: Sam Walkerdine, Luke Marsh and Flotsam & Jetsam team