PSA #7: Cleaning this mess up? Saturday, August 16, 2008
A few days ago, CNN ran a wonderful article on JUNK in their science blogs section, "The Pacific toilet bowl that never flushes".After describing the problem of plastic debris in the gyre, CNN producer Marsha Walton concludes with a public call for suggestions:
"So, any ideas from the brains of our astute blog readers? How would you fix this? Outlaw single use plastic items? Push for plastics that biodegrade? Put a litter cop on every ocean-going vessel? Teach your kids to respect the planet?"
So far her query has elicited 116 responses! Everything from getting fleets of fishing boats to trawl for trash, to demanding UN involvement, to curbing our production of plastics. And more (for a full list, read the post)
The suggestion of netting, scooping, or trawling out the plastic is often posed.....unfortunately its simply not a feasible option, yet. Too big an area, and the debris far too difuse. Here's Marcus on why cleanup is impractical:
Video from JUNK's Roz Savage meetup Friday, August 15, 2008
JUNK/Roz recount: like two snails chasing each other
Thursday, August 14, 2008
A wonderful recount from JUNK of the other night's historic mid-Pacific encounter. Here Roz has the boys in a savage headlock....
Those two hours 600 miles from land, the highlight of our trip, an encounter with tremendous joy and gratitude, were spent with Roz Savage aboard JUNK. Her boat, Brocade, saddled up next to JUNK at 6pm on August 12th, after three days of communicating our whereabouts back and forth. “We’re like two snails chasing each other,” Roz said, regarding our respective methods of movement. JUNK only sails. Roz is rowing across the Pacific Ocean.
Joel and I listened to the VHF radio to her tender British voice, wondering, “Do you think she looks more like Princess Diana or the Queen?” Joel spotted her first a mile off the bow. Within 200 feet of each other we threw out the sea anchor and dropped the sail. The first attempt to toss her a line failed, so I swam out to her with the end of the line and a handshake. She looked like Guinevere in pigtails with the forearms of Popeye.
Aboard JUNK we gave her the grand tour of patched pontoons, broken masts and worn lashings. Bobbing next to her streamlined, carbon-fiber, competitive rowboat with waterproof hatches, JUNK appears to have well earned its name. We knew our time would be short, and that we hadn’t seen other human beings for 2 ½ months, therefore we intuitively cut through the small talk and had real conversations, equally enjoying the company, if nothing else.
Roz was in need of water. Both of her watermakers malfunctioned. We were in need of food, having resorted to peanut butter for the bulk of our nutrition. We had two watermakers, and plenty of water in buckets. Roz had food, and plenty of it. Before climbing aboard JUNK, she hurled three bags of food over to us, and three empty containers. We had been making water all morning, so we quickly gave her a full stock to keep her going. We peeked in the bags she gave us, as if Joel and I were children on Halloween. “What did you get Joel?” I asked. “Larabars and Teriyaki chicken,” he said. “I got turkey jerky,” I replied, thinking that I can now refrain from eating the fish jerky still hanging outside. There’s an underlying joy, not in the prospect of full meals, but in giving, the reciprocal altruism that is deeply human.
Read the full account here:
Joel jumped in the water after a school of Mahi Mahi that had been following us all day. I asked Roz, “So what do you do to keep your mind active?” She knew exactly what I was talking about. I described that in my experience thus far, there have been moments of ecstatic joy and bottom of the barrel sadness, blooming randomly in a wide, open field of boredom. She responded, “I can focus on rowing, or anticipate the next tea break, and then there’s audio tapes. But it’s different from when I rowed the Atlantic…” This isn’t Roz’s first long distance rowing expedition. “…there were more doubts and more to think and worry about. For example, when my watermaker broke this time, I simply said, ‘oh well.’” Here blue eyes are loaded with experience and the patience that comes with it. You get to a point where you can choose to worry or not worry about things, because worry simply doesn’t change anything outside your head. I looked overboard to see Joel struggling toward the raft.
“Hana pa’a!” he yelled. A three-foot Mahi Mahi thrashed as I heaved it on deck. A quick cut above the eyes and it’s still. Joel climbed out of the water, and turned on the stove. I handed him the first filet, the muscle still twitching. In minutes we’re enjoying curried fish, a gift from the sea. We promised Roz a fish, and Joel came through. I could see Joel was content, as I was, having the opportunity to give to someone else. Roz appeared to feel the same way.
We’re all here to raise awareness about the issue of plastic marine debris. Just before Joel nabbed dinner, I retrieved a small sieve towed behind JUNK. I unscrewed the cod end to show Roz the contents of our research trawl. “Many people think it’s an island of plastic trash out here, but it’s worse.” I showed Roz the particulate fragments of plastic collected along with a few jellyfish, halobates and zooplankton. “If it were an island, it could be mined. The reality is that it’s a thin soup, with millions of tons of plastic, the size of peas and smaller, distributed around the world. There’s no techno-fix, only a cultural one.” This sample is for Roz to use in her efforts to show the public what’s happening to our oceans.
But are there deeper reasons other than the issue of plastic marine debris for exposing one’s life to the intolerances of the sea? Perhaps it’s the 360-degree view of stars to the horizon, or the identity we gather from our adventures, like feathers in our cap, or it’s the novelty of unanticipated consequences of just being truly present in the world. I don’t know, perhaps all of the above. The sun is beginning to set behind a bank of clouds. The last rays are an unspoken cue that it’s time to part ways. We take a few photos together, and Roz autographs our cabin with a marker, “No doubt, you’re the coolest guys I’ve met in the last three months. Thanks for a great dinner. Bon Voyage. ROZ.” We watch her drift away, and the silhouette of her oars in the air as she begins rowing another 600 miles to Hawaii. Read more!
JUNK meets up with Roz Savage!
A miraculous reunion. In the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, JUNK and the Brocade, two tiny motorless crafts, managed to locate one another, meet up for dinner, trade essential supplies, and marvel at the wonder of it all.....
Stay tuned for a full recount and a video from Marcus tomorrow. Meanwhile a few photos here: Marcus and Roz with The Algalita Marine Research Foundation flag, and sporting some tools to kick plastic: an Ecousable water bottle, and a Bring Your Own bag!
JUNK gaining on Roz Monday, August 11, 2008
The two Pacific voyages have yet to rendezvous, but getting closer......JUNK and Roz are in communication every few hours, trying to pinpoint one another's coordinates. Here's their latest, tracked by Michael on Kaua'i.
Hoping they meet soon - Roz's extra Larabars have got to beat the raw squid Marcus and Joel tried the other day. Seems Joel has a tougher stomach or a more experimental palate than Marcus.....