Chasing A Tsunami, Following a Typhoon, It’s On Baby.

Jun 07 2012
departblog
Our expeditions are kind of like summer camp for plastic nerds. Yes, we have real research to conduct, but that doesn’t make us any less nerdy.  And if there is one thing all the partners who brought this voyage to life, Algalita, 5 Gyres, and Pangaea Explorations are at heart, is plastic nerds. And the nerdom grows with each new crew we take, as we build a global ambassadorship to fight plastic pollution. Tracey Read, our crew member from Hong blurted out the other day, “It’s just so exciting,” as the crew was surveying on ungodly amount of plastic crap along the shore in Yokohama Harbor, just adjacent to where Sea Dragon is moored.  Cameras clicked madly and gigabytes upon gigabytes of video were shot as we sifted through the plastic garbage along the key.  We were on our way to Yokohama Beach to conduct a beach transect (A NOAA protocol for monitoring how polluted a beach is over time) and ping some GPS coordinates hoping that we could get some trending from Surfrider Japan in the same location in the future.  As we walked to the train, I asked Tracey– “What’s so exciting?”  She giggled a little bit, “Oh, nothing, it’s just that I finally feel like I’m with my people.” She went on to say that normally, when she looks through plastic on her beach with awe and discrimination, people look at her like she’s nuts—  this point was accentuated by a older Japanese man walking by looking at 11 people on hands and knees passionately photographing garbage along a key in Japan.  His look?  Pure befuddlement.  When I survey the crew why they work on plastic issues, the consensus is largely this— compared to other ocean conservation issues such as over-fishing and acidification, there just aren’t that many people fighting to stop plastic from getting into the ocean. But that’s what we all have in common.  Whether it’s attack dog activism, art, education, facilitating beach cleanups, cutting edge science or creating onramps for engagement amongst the masses, this crew that hails from Hong Kong, Brasil, Switzerland, The UK, Australia, Mexico, The USA, and South Korea all have something in common. The passion to stop the marine eco disaster that is plastic pollution.  As we all know, a tsunami of trash enters our shared ocean everyday, but this expedition will give us some new understanding of how the North Pacific conveyor works, and how fast the garbage moves, what threats it poses, and how fast it breaks into small pieces (hopefully).  This group is all about sharing–  sharing our resources to get the message out there, grab samples for other research institutions, you name it–  we’ll give it away as long as it’s for good. And with this expedition maybe, just maybe, we’ll capture the imagination and the conscious of a global society fascinated by the tsunami debris enough to show them that it doesn’t take a tidal wave to hurt an entire ocean.  All it takes is a tidal wave of indifference and ignorance by 7.5 human inhabitants passively behaving simultaneously, indeed, thinking, ‘how bad can my actions really be? I’m just one person.  Well the affect of humanity on this planet is a matter of scale.  What’s ironic is that I’m a Communications guy, and I’ve done media placements for all our previous voyages, but for some reason this one has every major news agency in the world foaming at the mouth.  Well that’s just fine with me, we’ll give them what they want, let’s just hope that it doesn’t take wide scale devastation of a huge part of a 1st world country to get the world to wake up to the havoc each one of us wreaks, daily. But whatever it takes to get them to care, and then be inspired to create change through education, art, science or attack dog activism, that’s all I’m concerned with. Here’s the onramp all. Walk with us people.
T-minus 24 hours
Our friend Sarah Outen who is cycling and rowing around the world, London to London, is out there, weathering Typhoon Mawar, which has now spun off Northeast of us bearing down on her position.  We’re hoping to swing by and say hi to her, perhaps toss her a bar of dark chocolate. Sarah’s publicist has been in communication with us already and she relayed the message that Sarah is encountering a tremendous amount of debris during her row.  When briefing an anxious to get to sea crew about this, who has now been living on Sea Dragon for a week in port,  I’m met with expressions that are a mix of joy and horror–  which is precisely what one feels when inside a so called gyre ‘garbage patch.’  The joy doesn’t come from apprehending a sea polluted, but from the ability to bear witness to it, document it, and share those images around the world in hopes of making it stop.  Or in this case, it’s fuel for people who have already dedicated their lives to making it stop.  The horror felt is the reality of scale that we’re talking about.  Having myself traveled to three of the ocean gyres already, witnessing the same thing in each, the one thing I can’t adequately describe to anyone who hasn’t spent a month at sea is this–  the ocean is BIG.  It may some trite, but it’s that simple–  the ocean is BIG.  Sea Dragon looks impressive tied up to a dock in a harbor, and almost anyone that walks by her stops to wave, take a gander, and admire her beauty that aesthetically is derived from a precise mixture of form and function.  Sure, she’s easy on the eye, but she also looks like she can handle anything. It’s her prowess that her lines suggest.  But still, out there she and her crew are nothing. We’re  a needle piercing an exponent on a universe of haystacks.  Sea Dragon will keep us safe, and that is her duty, but we’re all small or egos and our ship against the backdrop of the mighty blue.  Where the cosmic heebie-geebies will set in for this virgin crew is when they feel that space around them, and that they can find the stain of their species everywhere out there.  Whether it comes from a natural disaster or from a momentary indifference or carelessness, when moving through an amount of space that confounds the senses, the rough beast they will know is a calculus of pollution that puzzles the mind, and burdens the heart.  That realization will sink into their faces in a profound way and will cause them despair.  Real, utter, poignant despair.  But that will not break them.  What will endure when they step to land in Maui is this–  an incredible empowerment to be the agent of change in a world recruiting them to action.  They will have a vantage few know, but they will feel a tremendous duty to share their stories so that they will live beyond them and empower others.  Their work will be more confident, more informed. This is why we do what we do. And my job is to empower you, gentle reader, by taking you along for the ride on our partners blogs.
Tomorrow we sail.

Stiv J. Wilson
The 5 Gyres Institute
5gyres.org
mobile: 503.913.7381
skype: agentstiv
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There Is No Away.