Friday, May 25, 2007

FAQs: is it safe?

Shifting Baselines Director Randy Olson asks Marcus asks a number of questions on many peoples minds.

Q1: What's the worst case scenario?

M.E.: Besides falling in or getting run over, the worst case scenario is that plastic trash continues to fill our oceans.

Q2: I was expecting you to say, "we end up lost at sea." Isn't that the worst case scenario?

M.E.: We've filed that scenario right next to, "killed in a car crash on the way to the launch," which is about equal probability.

Q3: What makes you so confident in the seaworthiness of the raft?

M.E.: One word ... "redundancy."

Q4: Which means ...?

M.E.: That everything is backed up at least once. It's the key to safety on a journey like this. We have three GPS units, 2 satellite phones, 2 VHF radios, IPERB Coast Guard Beacon, and 3 months worth of food and water. And when it comes to flotation, we have more than just two -- we actually have 12 pontoons, so if one were to rupture we can easily stay afloat on the other 11 while we fix it.

Q5: Is this the most dangerous crossing anyone has ever attempted from California to Hawaii?

M.E.: Well, I'm not the first to raft this passage. In 1958 4 men drifted on a 20 ton wooden platform without even any sails from Hermosa Beach to Hawaii! They didn't have any of the incredible technology we'll have - no GPS, satellite telephone, or the five gallon bucket of Hershey's kisses I've packed away. We anticipate it will take 6 weeks for 1.5 tons of JUNK to sail the same distance.

Q6: Are you worried about getting caught in a hurricane?

M.E.: We're going at the best time of the year for weather - May/June. It's when most people try to schedule this journey. There's always a risk of severe weather at sea, but the hurricanes generally tend to form off Baja and move north if the water is warm. To our advantage, this year the water has remained unusually cold off California which greatly reduces the likelihood of a hurricane moving up. But if one hits, our only choice is to hold on till it blows over.

Q7: Do you have enough experience for this journey?

M.E.: Yes, we both do. Joel Paschal, my sailing partner, and I met in Hawaii earlier this year as crew aboard the ORV Alguita. We traveled with Captain Charles Moore 4000 miles across the North Pacific Ocean to quantify the accumulation of plastic trash.
It was on that expedition that Joel, Anna Cummins and I talked about the project "Message in a Bottle". We designed our raft and planned our journey under the watchful eye of Captain Moore, an experienced sailor having crossed to Hawaii and back over 10 times.

Q8: What's the risk of getting run over by an ocean liner?

M.E.: The risk is slim, but not impossible. We will be crossing through shipping lanes. Our redundant radio equipment and AIS, which allows ships to identify each other, will keep us and other ships in communication. Also, our 20 sailboat masts used for the deck, and aluminum airplane fuselage for a cabin, creates an enormous radar signature. We have a better chance of being seen by big ships than typical fiberglass sailboats do.

Q9: Don't you think if the raft were to be lost at sea people like Jay Leno would have a lot of fun with it - to say that two guys went out to draw attention to the problem of plastics in the sea and ended up adding another 15,000 plastic bottles to the problem?

M.E.: Well, as I've said, the risks of the raft not making it are the same as any other sailboat. But more importantly, let's look at the facts. Over 10,000 pounds of plastic trash enter the oceans every day from just the city of Los Angeles. Our raft has a total of about 350 pounds - a drop in the bucket. If adding that relatively small amount more of plastics to the oceans is enough to get the issue talked about on national television its absolutely worth it, because right now, virtually no one is giving this issue much thought. It has to start somewhere.

Q10: But still, in the end, anyone venturing out into the open ocean is risking their lives. Why are you doing this?

M.E.: Yes, we are risking our lives, but the issue of petroleum-based plastic and our national dependence on petroleum, warrant urgent action. My quality of life, the future of our nation's economy, environmental quality, and human health, are at stake. I remember 17 years ago, as a young Marine in the Gulf War, standing in Kuwait City covered with drops of oil from the burning wells, saying to myself, "Why have we done this?" James Baker, former Secretary of State, the man that sent me to war, said recently, "We had a written policy that we would go to war to defend secure access to the energy reserves of the Persian Gulf." THIS IS NOT WHY I CHOSE TO SERVE MY COUNTRY!

This expedition aims to alert my nation to the plastic marine debris issue, the legislation that will cure this plague, and the corrosive national policy toward energy that fails us all.


Robert said...

You speak of "urgent action," but you have not really defined the problem. In the first place, "urgent action" should be reserved for "urgent problems," like a an imminent hurricane or a flood crest moving down a river. I'm not saying plastic trash in the ocean isn't a problem – I simply don't know enough about it to evaluate the problem, and I suspect neither do you. It seems to me that your energy would be more productive applied to a thorough study of the "problem," to determine if it really is potentially serious. If it turns out to be something we need to be concerned about, then we have plenty of time to devise an appropriate solution without taking draconian steps that will impact our economy and the livelihoods of millions of people.

I detect in your comments more than a little political bias, and I suspect that your efforts are at least as much directed at political grandstanding as they are toward solving the plastic-junk-at-sea problem.

Robert G. Williscroft, PhD
Author of "The Chicken Little Agenda"

Anna said...

Thank you for checking in Robert. You raise some interesting points that we will address very soon.

Meantime, check out todays New York Times article on the topic, featuring the founder of our organization Captain Charles Moore.

Anna said...

New York Times article.

Robert said...

Dear Dr. Robert,
I detect a case of "sour grapes."
You say we should study the issue.
These guys are studying the issue, they have put them selves in the middle of the famous pacific plastic soup. Is it urgent when a turtle swallows the plastics, or whale eats the plastic, or a bird gets caught in the gill nets, and we don't see it?
The simple answer, is animals are dying from our plastic litter, but obviously, you don't think it is urgent when ocean animals die.
Grandstanding, I don't think so, these men are putting themselves on the line to make a point,
I detect political bias in your statements, that are prone to big business interests.
What have you done today Dr. Robert, except to promote your book?

James said...

quite an interesting project you have there.

hope you make it! lol

are you doing this in may/june 2009?

Anonymous said...

Robert G. Williscroft seems to be a fraud. On his own web site he says he received a "M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Engineering from California Coast University in 1981 and 1983, respectively." Checking the California Coast University website reveals that they don't offer any degree in Engineering and do not offer Ph.D. degrees. Furthermore, Dissertation Abstracts International (which publishes abstracts of dissertations from "virtually all accredited institutions in North America that award doctoral degrees") does not show that Mr. Williscroft completed a dissertaion at an accredited institution.

Mr. Williscroft seems to have few scientific credentials and none in the area of environmental sciences.
Since 1980 he has only one peer reviewed scientific paper and that one is unrelated to pollution, global warming and the other issues he coments about, (his publication is, Brook I, Coolbaugh JC, Williscroft RG (1982). Effect Of Diving And Diving Hoods On The Bacterial-Flora Of The External Ear Canal And Skin. Journal Of Clinical Microbiology , 15(5), 855-859.)

He seems to have an agenda of his own and in the title of his book he claims to be "Debunking Expert's Lies" -- but he seems to have a few of his own that need debunking.

DogsDontPurr said...

I love love love what you guys are doing.

When you said,
"James Baker, former Secretary of State, the man that sent me to war, said recently, "We had a written policy that we would go to war to defend secure access to the energy reserves of the Persian Gulf." THIS IS NOT WHY I CHOSE TO SERVE MY COUNTRY!"
I wanted to reach out and kiss you!

If only we could get everyone to understand this. That is so well stated.

Keep it up. You have my total support. I just bought your book, and will keep watching your blog. Loved your link up with Roz. Very cool.

Thanks for going out there and doing this!

Anonymous said...

Fair winds and calm following seas guys!!

Anonymous said...

how much did that cessna run you?

Jon P. said...

awesome work, gentlemen! you grabbed my imagination, and that is the hardest thing to do in this age of dazzling media nonsense and manufactured distractions! thank you for spotlighting both the problem and solutions. with more people like you, the environmental movement will gain momentum and perhaps save more than a few species, and ourselves. i'm not a person who's given to hyperbole, either, so don't take these as casual words. thank you again for your hard work and spirit!