Wednesday, May 23, 2007



Two eco-mariners are sailing a raft built of junk to help call attention to a major oceanic environmental problem – the accumulation of plastic trash in the seas.

WHY IS THIS PROBLEM IMPORTANT: The huge volume of plastic trash now drifting in the oceans interrupts the feeding of marine life (birds choke on plastic trash, plankton ingest microscopic particles of plastics) and plastics release toxins into the water.

In the North Pacific Gyre, north of Hawaii, there is now more plastic, by weight, than plankton. It’s a huge region of circling currents that concentrate the debris, thousands of miles from land.

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation sponsor of the voyage, is studying the problem. An increasing number of environmental groups are backing legislation to cut back on the use of disposable plastics. Heal the Bay, another major sponsor of the voyage, currently runs a major program on the problem of plastics in the sea. The journey is intended to help call attention to these projects.

June 1, 2008 from Long Beach Aquarium

ARRIVAL IN HAWAII: August 27, 2008 (current estimate) in Ala Wai Harbor, near Honolulu, Oahu

THE TWO MARINERS: Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal, with Anna Cummins as ground support.

PURPOSE OF JOURNEY: To call attention to the growing problem of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean

THE RAFT: 30 feet long, built on six pontoons filled with 15,000 plastic bottles, deck is made of salvaged sailboat masts, cabin is the fuselage of a Cessna airplane, the vessel has 4 sails and can make 90 degrees headway into the wind.

SPEED: roughly 2 knots, equals about 50 miles per day

FOOD: They brought several months supply which has been supplemented with mahi mahi and squid they have caught along the way


MOST DANGEROUS MOMENT: Driving to the Long Beach Aquarium on the day of departure (everything has been smooth sailing since then)

THE BAD NEWS (and a major headline): After nearly 3 months at sea, NONE of the 15,000 plastic bottles have shown much sign of wear and tear, showing how incredibly durable these plastic are that wash into the sea.

SPONSORS: The project gained initial support from the Sky Scrape Foundation and the Burbank Recycling Center which provided most of the 15,000 bottles. However, Patagonia also gave over 1000 Nalgene bottles that are being phased out of their product line due to concerns over chemicals in the plastics. One of the sponsors, Eco-Usables has developed a stainless steel safe alternative to plastic water bottles. Students from Santa Monica High School and the Environmental Charter High School helped stuff the bottles into the pontoons, and MUSE Elementary provided support. Additional sponsors include Kashi Cereal, LA Green Drinks, Patagonia, Shifting Baselines, Solar Design Associates, MUSE Elementary School, and North Face.


Bonnie said...

Thank you for doing this! It is horrible what plastic trash is doing to our oceans and our wildlife. I recently saw a documentary on National Geographic about the literal sea of plastic and the Albatross who die with their stomachs filled with plastic debris. Thank you for doing something to raise awareness! I wish you much success on your journey!

Scott said...

you guys are awesome! I'd love to come check out the boat...I live in Marina as well.

I have a green site that you can talk about why avoiding plastic is so important.

Email me at'd love to stop by! Keep up the great green work!

A. Jeffrey said...

Plastic is not the problem. Littering is the problem.

Rick Hart said...

In a perfect world, you have a slight point - if everybody was responsible and did the right thing with their trash... But the reality of the situation is that people are, for the most part, irresponsible. Just look at the rate that we recycle these plastic products. It's very low. We've been brought up in a world where it's OK to just buy things and throw away what you don't want. Where, exactly, is away? Is it out of sight out of mind? Judging by most people's behavior, I have to say yes. But I think the real point to be made here is that the manufacture, sale and disposal of plastics is in and of itself very destructive to the environment. Millions of barrels of oil per year go into the manufacture of plastic bags alone. Is it worth it to be dependent on foreign oil so we can carry things home from the store?


sancho said...

ooolaaa!!!! My name is sancho, I organize , we project in our environment day Garbage Island filmed aboard the Algalita...
I would love publishing a news in our blog + a magazine about surfing I edit. Could you send me high res pics of your boat????


davidgaudin said...

Hey Bro its your brother David. I'm very proud of what you're doing. You've really raised questions here... When are we, as individuals, going to start being responsible with our disposal of waste?? And when are we going to start being more responsible with more environmentally friendly products? And when are community leaders going to make it mandatory that we recycle in every city?
You have really opened my eyes to not only what is happening around me with the environment but also with my own habits of use and disposal of plastic. I'm ashamed.
If this doesn't stop soon we will start seeing the increasing impact on our health and well being as a human race and the animals we share the earth with. I think the masses are either in denial or just ignorant about where that water bottle ends up and how long it takes to break down when they're finished drinking it. Hopefully you will change that. When are we going to stop destroying our environment at the expense of making a profit?

Again bro...Thank you for what you are doing. I hope you inspire enough people to make a difference. You've made a difference with me..
Happy sailing and look forward to hearing about your adventure when you return safely.
Your bro,

James said...

a couple of industrial sized Fishing vessels with Plasma converters on-board. Hydrogen Production at sea. The plastic could also become aggregate for structural composites to create gazebos, beach boardwalks etc.

Linda Brewer-Estes said...

A worthy cause. Thank you for your noble efforts.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joel and Marcus....

Not a day goes by that I don't speak to someone about your journey. It IS going to make a difference. Folks will be impacted by your courage and vision.

Catch the trades soon. God speed. See you when you get back.

Antti said...

Couple of questions that rises to my mind:

What is the composition of the smallest plastic grains floating in the ocean? How much polyethylene, how much nylon, how much PVC?

If this continues for decades or centuries, some microbe in the sea water/whale guts might have a strong
incentive to "develop" an enzyme that
could digest (some of the most common)
plastics in the ocean. What would be the consequences, any harmful byproducts of its metabolism? If such a microbe migrates to human dwellings?

What are the natural ways for the debris to sink to the bottom? E.g. google for "whale feces". I would guess that some plankton eating whales function also as giant plastic filtering machines. How much plastic there is now in whale feces? (It is said that the feces sink after floating one hour on the surface. Does it also STAY in the bottom?)

Any plastic yet detected in ambergris?
(Sperm whales prey on squids in deeper waters).

Happy sailing,


Laura said...

Good luck on the adventure. Heard a mention of the importance of not using plastic grocery bags versus the fabric bags available now. On CFRB radio here in Ontario. Could not hear the whole thing. They referred to a junk raft floating on the Pacific and I found your blog when I came to find out more about it.

Tim said...

My daughter in Japan sent me this news because she knows of the litter clean-up I'm doing on the Monongahela River in West Virginia. We're trying to get some of the litter out before it goes down river to the ocean. It's a small effort, but we all need to do something. Our site
Sail on junk removers!!

beachgal said...

You all are the true heros in life. This cause is so noble because you are helping the beautiful creatures of the oceans. Thank you, I just found out about you, and will donate money right away.I live on a beautiful deserted private beach in Mendocino County, Calif. Everytime my dogs and I walk the beach, we come back with my pockets stuffed with bits and pieces of plastic in every color of the rainbow. I do my small part, you do your huge part, everyone starts to get it, and that is a start. Thanks again,happy sailing!!!

Robert E. La Quey said...

As Jeffery said, "Plastic is not the problem, littering is," but in a real world people litter. Plastics need to be redesigned for reuse and sustainability. See Plastico Fantastico for a starting point.

Bioplastics, modular bottles like legos, reuse, is the path toward a solution.

john-pau; said...

All for this mate - let's hope people start to sit up and take notice of the damage they are doing.

Anonymous said...

We need to go back to using glass containers instead of plastic. As anyone over about 20 can remember, most jars and bottles in grocery stores were made of glass, but, over time, now almost all are plastic.

Glass bottles can be cleaned and refilled (remember returning pop bottles back in the day?), or, they can be recycled (ground up, melted, remolded) fairly easily.

If you read the article about plastics in Wikipedia, you'll see that plastic recycling is almost a total failure, because first, the very small percentage of plastics that are dropped off by people, then also the labor intensive sorting of plastics by type, at the recycling plants.

Glass is the only answer.

Anonymous said...

Like some others I'm trying to get the word out to other's about your journey, and why you are doing this...

Happy Trails to you!!...

Wes said...

Thanks a bunch. Humans are the real "pigs" of the planet. I remember, when I was in the Navy, how amazed I was in the lat 70s and early 80s how much trash I spotted when out in the middle of the Atlantic, far away from land anywhere, even about the Arctic Circle! When in the Mediterranean Sea I wondered why in the world anyone would want to swim in it. No matter where we sailed there was trash! Down in the Carribean it was even worse. I now live on the Florida gulf coast and it is very discouraging going to the beach because no matter how much we clean up the beach there is more trash coming to on the tide!
When are people going to wake up?

Thanks for what you are doing

Priscila Rocha said...

People look but they pretend don't see the problem.
I live in Ilhabela - Brazil and try to do everything I can for the nature.

Nice information.
Added you to my favorites!
Regards from Brazil

Todd said...

I have been following Roz and when you rendezvoused you caught my attention. I have been going to the Pacific beach here in Washington for the past 13 years and have noticed the abundance of plastic bottles but also the little bits of plastic and debris. I am so glad you are doing this to bring awareness though I think you need some more press. I think this needs to be covered in ALL newspapers with suggestions on how each of us can help the with the problem and your cause. Fair winds mates.

Samantha said...

Wow! What you both have set out to do is absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for bringing a realization such as this to so many people. Congratulations on making your voyage successfully and bringing awareness to so many on such an important topic. The sad part is that it is because of us that this is a problem at all. Best of luck in your future journeys and thank you once again.

Green Flash said...

If you want us to post a link on our web site to yours - let us know. We are pushing the same message as we recycled plastic into deck lumber and outdoor furniture. You are right about long lasting. Our products carry a 50 yr warranty. Come in 9 colors and save tons of trees from getting used each year, as well as using trash that ends up in landfills or the ocean. We are trying to get people to do more recycling and to buy recycled products. Only the demand for recycled products will force corporate america to increase their efforts at being green.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a courageous voyage. I admire your guts. How was the fishing? I'd love to learn how you caught fish.