Thursday, August 28, 2008

JUNK makes front page in India!

News of JUNK's safe arrival in Honolulu travelled far and wide yesterday, including
a front page article on Such are the wonders of the AP wire. How does if feel to set foot on land after 3 months on a plastic bottle raft, crossing the Pacific?

"We were surrounded by boats, blaring horns, waves and whistles, as JUNK was towed into Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu. The first thing I did was reach for my fiancee, Anna. Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation was there with a smile and a loud “Aloha”. Dr. Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium, presented us each with a handshake and a lei. There were perhaps 100 people there to greet us, including plenty of media representatives to cover our story, everyone asking, “Why did you do this,” or “Was it worth it?” If you've been following our blog, you know why. Yes, it was worth it. We would do it again.

I presented our last gyre sample from our marine debris trawl. In a glass peanut butter jar were hundreds of fragments of plastic and zooplankton floating around. “This is what you get when you skim the ocean surface. 2/3rds of the earth is ocean, and is now a plastic soup.” I also showed the shriveled stomach from the rainbow runner I caught a couple weeks ago, with 14 fragments of plastic in it's stomach. This is why we crossed this ocean. Then we talked about what we do about it.

Anna and I were soon strolling along busy streets to find a market and restaurant for fresh greens. Anything green, or a red tomato would do. As we walked I paid attention to my experience. I expected wobbly legs and quick exhaustion. What I experienced was unexpected. We found a restaurant and shared a spinach and tomato salad. We walked slowly. I was just taking it all in. The novelty of the open ocean is different from rush hour Waikiki, the noise, sights, smells, and concrete beneath my feet. The best analogy would be a monk walking through a burning building. I was used to the subtle novelty of an empty horizon and bottomless sea that shows you a unique world, especially when you travel at 1.5 miles per hour for 2600 miles. So much of our planet is ocean, so little of it belongs to us, and perhaps none of it does.

Today, one day later, I carry my cell phone. I wear shoes. I check email. Anna and I walked to Ala Wai Harbor to meet Joel. By the end of the day JUNK is gone. We've undone 3 months of work in 24 hours. We will rebuild the raft on the front lawn of the Waikiki Aquarium. Then we'll stuff JUNK in a shipping container and send it back to where it was built. It's been six months from the day I sketched the image of JUNK on a piece of paper, to the raft built, sailed, and dismantled in Hawaii. My dream for 4 years has come to a new beginning.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Arrival words from JUNK

JUNK has arrived safely, to a throng of cheering supporters, journalists, and videographers. After a few hours of interviews, the crew headed out for a much deserved lunch of FRESH FOOD and drink.

Photos coming of the arrival as soon as we've all settled into the land reality. Meantime, some final thoughts from Marcus and Joel:

At 1:00 am I took the helm, as Joel climbed into the cabin to sleep after having been on watch for 8 hours. A squall quickly overcame JUNK and left me and the deck drenched. The moon shot out from behind the clouds, illuminating the backside of the storm. By the light of the moon, a complete rainbow appeared. I’ve never seen one at night. I’ve 8 hours to keep the raft on a steady course for Honolulu, which is now only 40 miles away. There is so much to think about, so much to do, but still plenty of time to let my mind wander and ponder on this voyage. It’s been a long summer.

2,600 miles of open ocean crossed in 87 days. From our first week of sinking hopes on a sinking raft, through four hurricanes that swept under us, to the unbelievable chance meeting with Roz Savage in the middle of nowhere, we have had quite an adventure. We’ve collected 10 ocean surface samples using our marine debris trawl, managed to snatch a few large pieces of plastic debris that floated under us, and caught fish with stomachs filled with particles of plastic. Plastic is forever, and it’s everywhere.

That’s been our point. The Synthetic Century should have ended 8 years ago, replaced by the Age of Sustainability. There are over 20,000 man-made chemicals produced by the billions of pounds annually that are dispersed throughout the globe in an open loop of consumption that often ends as waste to be buried, burned or to flow down coastal watersheds out to sea. It is unsustainable and deeply troubling knowing that many synthetic compounds are persistent in the environment and are harmful to wildlife and humans. Plastic marine debris is one of them, and is the most ubiquitous form of pollution visible around the world. It is clear that single-use disposable plastic products have no place in modern society.

We return to society tomorrow if all goes well, to the world of alarm clocks, calendars, cars and shoes. Three months is enough time to forget the world you left and accept a new reality. But not everything is forgotten. I long for my friends, family and fiancĂ©e. I crave fresh veggies and exercise. In three months I wonder how I will reflect on this summer? Will there be days when I will find myself wishing to be back on JUNK, even if only for a minute? I don’t know what this experience will bring, but it is my intention to use it as a starting point for hundreds of conversations about solutions to the plastic plague. We have, in half a century, transformed 2/3rds of the ocean surface into a plastic soup. Knowing what I know, it would be immoral to do nothing.

As I watch the sun set on the final day at sea, I am overcome more with humility than excitement. I am truly humbled by the efforts of so many people that have made this journey a reality. Donations of time and funds came pouring in once we committed to this project, and thousands of people followed our story online. From an idea sketched on paper years ago, to the final miles of an amazing adventure, I can only say “Thank you.”

Best wishes,

And for Joel's final words, read on:
Land oh! I spotted land this afternoon at 1:45 Hawaii Time. The flanks of Mount Haleakala were showing through the clouds on East Maui. It’s been 85 days since we were towed out of Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach and around two months since sailing away from Isla de Guadalupe, the last piece of land sighted.

Junk was built in Long Beach next to the mouth of the Los Angeles River. Everyday I was there working on Junk the tide would push plastic debris into the harbor and remind me why as doing this. In the 2600 nautical miles since then we have observed all kinds of plastic debris floating and collected in the trawl. We have also watched a small school of fish, rainbow runners, that have been following Junk, grow from small fries with their egg sack attached to juveniles close to a foot in length. They too have traveled through the gyre gathering plastic debris. After catching one of the larger rainbow runners we looked in it’s stomach and found it was full of plastic bits including a pre-production plastic pellet or a nurdle. It gives me a profound sense that there is no place and no life form on earth that isn’t being affected by the on slot of synthetic chemicals that humans are releasing into the environment. It also brings home the point that planetary life support system works in cycles and we eventually learn (usually the hard way) that things we once though were benign directly affect human health and that there is no difference between environmental health and human health.

I am looking forward to being on land, but I’m staying focused on the task at hand, that is safely navigating Junk through the Kaiwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu and into the Ala Wai Harbor. The open ocean has it’s challenges but sailing close to land is often more dangerous. Kalaupapa Peninsula almost wrecked Don McFarland on his rafting voyage from California to Hawaii more than fifty years ago. We trying to stay at least 10 nautical miles north of Kalaupapa but not so far north that we get trapped on the windward side of Oahu and blown into the sea cliffs around Makapu’u. Right now the weather is perfect. We’re making our course dead-on and at this speed we should arrive at Diamond Head around noon.
Malaho for following the Junk Blog!
/span> Read more!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Final JUNK PSA and arrival details

PSA #8 from JUNK: Solving The Problem:

As for the arrival:

JUNK will be pulling into the Ala Wai Fuel Dock at around 10:00 am, Wednesday the 27th, to what we hope will be a wonderful welcoming. All are invited! Give a call Tuesday if you want more exact arrival times: 310-998-8616

After a few days of rest, showers, fresh food, and reconnecting with their land legs, JUNK's crew will join Surfrider, The Nature Conservancy, The Kokua Foundation, and others at Sunset on the Beach, for music, activities, booths, food, and a word or two from JUNK (and perhaps Roz!)

Also on the program is an evening event at the Hawaii Yacht Club on September 3rd, with slides and tales; a press conference with Roz Savage and her Brocade on September 4th at the Waikiki Aquarium, and a North Shore party Saturday September 6th at Kainoa's Bar.

Details to come - hope to see you on Wednesday! Read more!

Joel's bristleworm and marine debris

Less than 100 miles to go per recent satellite phone conversation!

And a few words from Joel on a recent pet he found on a piece of floating debris:

While on watch earlier this week I spotted something large floating towards us. I put JUNK hard over and managed to scoop up a chunk of a plastic crate. We often see plastic crates in the Gyre. I’m not sure way we see so many. Maybe a nearby fishery uses - and often loses them overboard. The crate had started the process of photodegredation. Not only did we fid a bristleworm hitching a ride, it was brittle, cracked, and had the owner’s name or boat’s initials “JR” with a floral design melted into. Anybody know any fisherman named JR missing a crate?
Read on for Joel's continued Marine Debris Observations

Now that we are in the North Pacific Gyre the amount of debris that floats by has greatly increased. Last week I saw a basketball sized ball of rope float by. The fish that have been with us since they hatched and were recently swimming around with their yolk sack still attached, swam out to check the ball of rope out. They came back to JUNK with some friends, two black and white fish that all are also staying with us now.

When getting in the water to spear Mahi Mahi it’s almost like swimming through a snow globe of plastic confetti. From the surface you may only see a fleck of plastic here and there but once in the water you can see the plastic bits floating deeper in the water column. I’ve seen the all too common packing strap both on the surface and underwater while diving. JUNK’s debris trawl does a great job of collecting the plastic fragments from the surface and concentrating them into a sample that make quite a visual impact when you hold in our hand and see all the little plastic pieces swirling around. It’s a great way of educating people on land about the magnitude of the problem, but getting in the water in the middle of the ocean and seeing more plastic floating around me than life make even more of an impact and gives me profound feeling that we are smothering the planet with all of our synthetic waste.
Read more!

Friday, August 22, 2008

180 miles to go!

Just 180 miles to go. We’re almost due north of Hilo. This morning I scanned the deck for flying fish and found one. I’ll likely use it as bait to catch another Rainbow Runner. Joel and I think constantly about making landfall next week. I want a fresh salad and Joel wants a beer. What we don’t want: ANY MORE FISH!

(Our intrepid sailors don't know this yet, nor can they read the blog....but thanks to Kona Brewing company, they will have cold ones awaiting their arrival!)

We’re still catching fish though. Joel is making jerky for his friends in Honolulu. Right now, we’re more interested in the guts than the meat. Ever since finding that Rainbow Runner filled with plastic, we’ve collected 4 more of them and two Mahi Mahi. Of the four little fish, three were 4-5 inches with empty stomachs. The 8-inch Rainbow Runner had plastic in its gut. The Mahi Mahi were empty. We would like to catch one with fish still in it’s stomach, then dissect the stomach contents to see if big fish are eating little fish that eat plastic. And here is the rest of it. Read more!