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Always with Me – By Mitchell McLean

Oct 04 2013

Mitch McLean, Pangaea’s tireless intern and deckhand extraordinaire, volunteered his time and efforts day after day to make sure that everything on board ran smoothly. He did so with the honest intentions of putting his education and his passion for adventure to good use, and we think he did both very well this summer. He was a shoulder to lean on  and an incredibly dedicated supporter of the One Water Story. We cannot thank him enough for all of his hard work this summer. In Mitch’s last blog of the One Water Story, he recounts some of his favorite experiences. 

Mitchell McLean-deckhand, educator, poet, author, and all around awesome person.

Mitchell McLean-deckhand, educator, poet, author, and all around awesome person.

As quick and abrupt as it began it has now come to completion. The One Water Story shall be an experience I will hold with me for the rest of my life. The credit for the success of this expedition goes largely to Asta Mail for her dedication and tenacity for science. Thank you Asta for all your hard work, as well as Shanley and Eric for putting up with my shenanigans while showing me the ropes, I look forward to staying in touch.

The crew on our last day together-a bittersweet moment after such an amazing summer!

The crew on our last day together-a bittersweet moment after such an amazing summer!

Three months of living and working alongside amazing adventurers and scientists alike, where each leg of our voyage brought new crew full of big ideas. This tour of Middle America through the largest fresh water ecosystem on the planet has been stunning, or in the words of a great friend. “You know, good overwhelmed.” Yes I understand now, amazingly overwhelming.

Asta and MItch hard at work sampling lake water for the Ministry of Environment Ontario.

Asta and MItch hard at work sampling lake water for the Ministry of Environment Ontario.

I feel as though we have accomplished a great feat this summer. We educated and informed, sampled and collected, trimmed and navigated along our fresh water voyage. I feel confident in knowing that our samples are in the hands of those that can do great things with them. Through our sampling and outreach events the crews of Sea Dragon and of the One Water Story have in my mind moved our world towards a better place.

A highlight of my time as Deck hand on board was in Cleveland. For three days Sea Dragon swiftly sailed across the Cleveland harbor. From the mouth of the Cuyahoga River to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we trawled for plastic pollution with Laurel School’s middle school girls. For most of these sassy superstars this was the first time being on a boat, and each one brought with them their own levels of apprehension. However these ladies impressed me all day with intelligent questions, a willingness to learn sailing, and super enthusiasm. I was reminded during those sails of how much I enjoy teaching. These girls were sharp and a lot of fun to have on board. Thank you, girls of North Star Collaborative for three amazing days.

The girls of Laurel School and the North Star Collaborative in the cock pit of Sea Dragon on a beautiful summer's day.

The girls of Laurel School and the North Star Collaborative in the cock pit of Sea Dragon on a beautiful summer’s day.

So now what? I feel as though I’ve been given a precious gift, a gift of knowledge and clarity. Our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans are in peril, and we (all of humanity)  are to blame. Though blame is not what is important, politics hides behind blame, uses blame to stall better regulations, despite good science. So stop looking for blame and start action to rectify our collective mismanagement. There are disturbing amounts of plastics in our fresh and salt water ecosystems. We are still exploring the depth at which plastics interact and impact aquatic ecosystems.

Does this have to be our future?

Does this have to be our future?

My time on board has awakened me to how much pollution is simply around us. Around our dock area in Windsor we picked up hundreds of cigarette butts, while there was a garbage can within one hundred feet along the entire waterfront. In Halifax two ladies riding a rickshaw tossed their half empty plastic slurpee cup off the boardwalk and cheered as it cleared the floating dock and splashed into the harbor behind our boat. When I asked them why, they shrugged with no reason.

I am reminded of an Edmond Burke quote “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” I have heard so many great ideas on how to have an impact. I met a couple who on their morning runs would pick up trash along the way. I learned about schools with clear recycling and garbage bins, and even kayakers who pick up trash while paddling. We can all do a little right?

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