Alternate Title

Note on the Natural and Cultural History of Hurricane Balls

Document Type

Short Communication


Hurricane balls are natural phenomena of tropical storms and hurricane winds and waves and are found along the shoreline. Gunter Library at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) is home to a small collection of hurricane balls which were found along the shore lines of barrier islands and marsh beaches by GCRL staff over the years. Hurricane balls come in many sizes, and large balls can be slightly larger than a standard basketball of 24.8 cm diameter (USA Basketball 2001). Large balls in the Gunter Library collection range from 34.5 cm diameter (from 1969 Hurricane Camille) to 53.5 cm diameter (from 2005 Hurricane Katrina). Small balls range from 4.0 to 11.0 cm diameter.

Hurricane balls are objects of curiosity, local mythology, and conjecture concerning their origin. Found all over the world and composed of plant fibers native to their coastlines, these objects are called beach balls, drift balls, grass balls, marsh balls, sea balls, vegetable balls, buffalo balls, and whale burps. However, in south Mississippi, they are called hurricane balls (McAtee 1925, Olson 1963, Dubuisson 1969, Clawson 1998, Osis 2000, Ebbesmeyer 2004). This note reviews the scientific and popular literature available about hurricane balls with an emphasis on their cultural and natural history and speculates whether they may be indicators of coastal marsh health.

First Page


Last Page