Friday, January 29, 2010

The voyage has begun!!!

The crew successfully departed from Bermuda yesterday, beginning their long voyage across the Atlantic to the Azores. They have received your questions and I am sure we will be hearing from them soon. In the meantime they wanted to share some of their experiences in Bermuda with you...

Bermuda is an island in the middle of the North Atlantic Gyre. We’ve been here working with groups like “Greenrock” and “Keep Bermuda Beautiful” to clean beaches and lecture about what we know about plastic. My growing impression of Bermuda is its likeness to Hawaii. Both are in the path of their respective gyre currents – North Pacific Gyre vs. North Atlantic Gyre. Both carry a burden of trash from the shores of other nations. The trash even looks the same. Nurdles are everywhere. Bottles are full of bite marks. And plastic confetti of colored and degraded fragments litter the wrack line.

On our second beach cleanup- a similar scene - we found one remarkable piece of plastic: a wad of plastic film/sheeting, with a colony of corals, Foraminifera, growing on top. Nature has a wonderful way of adapting that will hopefully supersede our efforts to destroy her...

Little or none of this trash originates in Bermuda – rather this is trash from the mainland, carried some 700 miles by the Gulf Stream, and dumped on distant shores. Frequent beach cleanups by Keep Bermuda Beautiful serve as a temporary fix and a wonderful community effort, but more plastic simply washes up the next day. This serves as a sobering reminder that the problem starts on land – and on land is where solutions must begin. We can’t sieve, net, vacuum, or cleanup all the plastic on the world’s oceans and beaches, we must move further upstream to where the problem begins.

Video: Bermuda Beachcombing

Crewmembers meet with Judy Clee, a naturalist and beachcomber, to learn about what she has found on Bermuda's beaches. Judy shares unexpected examples of plastic pollution such as deodorant rollers, glow sticks, plastic chewed by marine life, crabpot tags, and plastic toys.

Two dozen Bermudan High School teens combed Coopers Beach despite 20 knot winds and horizontal rain. In half an hour they create a pile of trash as tall as me. Do these clean-up efforts work? A storm is fast approaching and I can see a barnacle-covered milk crate in the surf. Where did it come from? If we pick up this one, how long till the next one arrives?

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