Thursday, July 31, 2008

Squid Parts

Apparently intrigued by what it saw, this inquisitive squid launched itself onto JUNK for a closer look, a costly move for little Mr. Calamari. Finding him on deck the next morning, Marcus checks him out, and finds that squid have some pretty interesting features...

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

JUNK flying along, launch revisited

As of 9:30 tonight, JUNK was forging ahead at top speeds (relative, of course), possibly making today another record mileage day. Last night, she hit record speeds - 3.2 knots - a 58 mile day.

I asked Marcus how JUNK performs at high speed. Other than some new and strange bottle crunching noises, she apparently does just fine!

With the half-way mark now passed, heres a great reminder of why we're doing this, put together by our amazing friend and media savior Randy Olson.

And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Hit the halfway mark!!

July 28, 2008

We’ve crossed the 1300 mile mark, and the midway point of the trip in terms of miles traveled and miles to go. On top of that, we traveled a record 56 miles in 24 hours! If we keep this up we’ll be home before you can say, “I’m dying for something to eat besides fish and granola.”

Our spirits are up, knowing that we’ve got 3-4 weeks to go, provided all goes as anticipated. Right now our main objective is maintenance. The raft is suffering a bit, as all boats do. Last night the eyebolt holding the mainsail gave way, but was caught by the chain we installed a few days earlier. The galvanized wire holding up the mast is beginning to fray in places. We’ve got tons of rope to replace them if needed. Bottles and netting are holding up fine at this point. Today we will drop the mainsail and do a little maintenance for a couple of hours. This is just a fact of all boats.

What has impressed us is the durability of everything in light of the few small failures. Joel has kept the batteries tapped, constantly chasing short circuits. I’m still making mini-pontoons, sewing netting as I find weak spots, and tightening lashings between the deck and pontoons.

To mark the milestones in our trip, we decided to celebrate. Tonight we’ll whip up two boxes of macaroni and cheese, and share a pack of beef jerky. Wild times!

P.S. Check out Ecousable to find alternatives to the disposable plastic bottle.
And here is the rest of it.

(Clearly this isn't a photo from JUNK (our sailors looking clean shaven and, well, clean) but as there was no image for todays blog: this was a celebratory moment on our 2008 Gyre Voyage with Algalita, when we committed to take JUNK on. I imagine they'd trade a lot of jerky right now for a pina colada....)

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Monday, July 28, 2008

How JUNK communicates from sea

Here's how Marcus and Joel are able to communicate with the world, floating in the middle of the Pacific - the longest uninterrupted expanse of ocean in the world. We are tremendously grateful to our communication sponsors. This makes the sheer isolation bearable for our two sailors.....who are always eager for news from home. So keep the comments coming!

How people did this back in the day, before satellite phones and GPS, is truly astounding.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Joel Sails JUNK

Watch Joel's facial hair morph as he discusses techniques for sailing JUNK. They use 4 sails to take full advantage of the varying weather conditions - including FRANKENSAIL, a key sail Joel Macgyvered at sea. Those keen on navigation nitty gritty:
The sailors out there will relate: navigation begins with knowing your boat's strengths and weaknesses.

Junk is fastest when running downwind, but can make progress with the wind on her beam. The rhumb line bearing from our current location to Honolulu is 254.8 degrees.

The bearing is the direction, North=0 or 360, East=90, South=180 and West= 270. So 254.8 is West Southwest. Since the ideal wind for Junk comes from straight behind, we want wind coming from our reciprocal bearing. To calculate the reciprocal of 254.8 degrees, subtract 180--gives us 74.8 degrees or East Northeast. Since Junk can sail 90 degree off the wind, we can add 90 degrees to 74.8, and subtract 90 degrees from 74.8, to get 164.8 degrees and 347.8 degrees.

Is anyone's head spinning yet?

So....we need winds between approx 75 degrees and 350 degrees, roughly 3/4 of the compass! Only in Southwest, or zero winds are we slowed, during which time we drift, read, cook, work on boat projects, blog, and rest...

Next key: knowing where the favorable winds are. At times, we may even reroute our course to seek better winds and better time.

One of the best ways of forecasting the winds within a month is to use a pilot chart:

This here was for the month of June. The circles with radiating arms are wind roses. The wind frequency from any direction is proportional to the arm's length, while widths indicate the frequency of wind speeds blowing in that direction. Do you see the small blue dot on this chart? I drew this next to the closest wind rose. Shows mostly North, Northwest and West winds, with speeds between 4 and 6 on the Beaufort scale.

We're hoping for stronger winds -- tricky to make an efficient beam reach with light winds.

The next step is to look at the wind roses nearby, to see which where the favorable winds are coming from. South Southwest has a very long North Northwest arm with a wind frequency range of 4-6 on the Beaufort scale. From there, a North Northwest wind will allow us to sail Southwest into the even more consistent easterly, or "trade winds", used by ship’s in the 1700’s to sail west across Atlantic and Pacific trade routes.

The blue arrows, representing current direction, point in a westerly direction. The more solid the line, the greater consistency in the current direction. The arrow's tail indicates speed.

We also use the chart plotter/GPS to navigate - essentially an electronic version of the paper chart.

The GPS interfaces with the chart plotter and indicates Junk’s position, as a black triangular shape on the screen. We use the chart to avoid hazards - islands, rocks or shoals with breaking waves. As the saying goes “The ocean is not that dangerous, it’s the hard parts around the edges that will get ya”.

The chart plotter shows our Latitude and longitude, our Course Over Ground (COG), and our Speed Over Ground (SOG). While sailing, we can experiment with different sail trimming configurations, comparing COG and SOG to monitor improvements.

The charter plotter also allows us to pick a waypoint to assess our bearing and remaining distance, and acts as the screen for our AIS system.

In short, extremely helpful tools.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Zen and the art of JUNK maintenance

*Photo of Joel atop mast taken during JUNK construction, pre-launch. Here for kicks.*

July 25th

The sails hang still, like the edge of an oversized tablecloth reaching lazily to the floor. There is no wind again today. We were becalmed 10 days ago, then a gentle breeze brought 500 miles of west. Becalmed again, I step outside to find Mahi Mahi under our raft. Hopefully they will grace our menu. I walk around the deck conducting my ritualistic inspection of bottles, netting, integrity of lashings and welded parts, wear on lines, exposed wires on stays, and a general look and keen listen for things that are different than before.

We noticed a problem - the top of the mast was cracking. I spotted two three-inch cracks coming down from the masthead. And the eyebolt holding the mainsail secure to the masthead was bent open. We’re lucky it didn’t fail under way. What to do? Fortunately, we had two pieces of chain we used to create a bridge between the stays to support the failing eyebolt. A couple of large hose clamps tightened around the top of the mast stopped the crack from lengthening.

As we’ve said before, boats require maintenance, especially when underway, as the stress of sailing makes everything move, rub, grind, and abrade. I also discovered that where the aluminum airplane fuselage touches the aluminum masts, grooves begin to form. Where netting rubs netting, there are eventual holes. The movements are slow and seemingly innocuous, yet in time change is inevitable. Only with careful inspection can we anticipate these, and stay ahead of the game.

Read on for responses to blog questions about plastics, chemicals, childrens autism, and BPA in canned foods.

To Dawn P's question about chemicals in plastic and rises in childhood autism:
Thank you for a great question. We know that many synthetic compounds found in plastic, which give it properties such as elasticity, color, UV and flame resistance, are also linked to ailments found in humans. We know that synthetic compounds like styrene, bisphenol A, phthalates and nonylphenol are pre-production chemicals found in plastic, and linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, insulin inhibition, and other effects. Then there are the post-production pollutants that adhere to plastic marine debris that hundreds of species have been documented to ingest. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation has discovered significant amounts of DDT, PCBs and PAHs absorbed into plastic. We are finding that these pollutants on plastic, when ingested, migrate into the tissues and organs of some organisms. Those compounds are well known to have adverse effects of wildlife and humans.

I urge you to review the work of Frederick vom Saal, Earl Gray and Ana Soto. I know vom Saal has his published papers available on line. Earl Gray and Ana Soto have done extensive work on endocrine disrupting toxins and their effect on human development and wildlife.

I would be elated to see what research you find. Especially anything published in the last few months, since I've been away for a while.


And to the question about BPA in canned foods:

Yes, bisphenol A, the building block of polycarbonate plastic, is all over. It’s that plastic film in cans, dental fillings, polycarbonate water bottles and babyfood bottles. When you touch a new CD or DVD it's on your hands. The argument that it only leaches into food and beverages when heated is false. Scientists have found, that at room temperature, polycarbonate buckets and bowls leach bisphenol A into water (Howdeshell et al., 2003 Environmental Health Perspectives).

Other studies show an alarming relationship between very low doses of bisphenol A and cancer, endocrine disruption and insulin resistance. Bisphenol A is an estrogen mimic, resulting in the growth of cancer cells in the mammary glands and prostate gland in studies of mice. One lab study found that with a dosage of 10µg/kg/day, 100% of the rats developed prostate cancer (Ho et al., 2006, Cancer Research). Another study found bisphenol A, at the same low dose of 10 µg / kg/ day, stimulates abnormal development of basal cells in mouse fetuses. (Timms et al. 2005, PNAS 102:7014). In other studies, the same low dose given to lab rats found at first it stimulates insulin secretion and subsequently causes insulin resistance (Alonso-Magdalena et al. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2006). In humans, researchers found blood levels of BPA were linked to obesity in women (Takeuchi et al. Endo J. 2004). Also, elevated levels of BPA in blood was associated with recurrent miscarriage in women (Takeuchi et al. Endo J. 2004).

What is alarming is that these effects happen in extremely low doses, below human exposure. Bisphenol A is all around us. Even a polycarbonate baby food bottle give your infant a dose of 5 µg/kg/day. The Environmental Protection Agency oral reference dose is 50ug/kg/day, 5 times the dosage found to cause harm in lab studies.

Why does the Environmental Protection Agency permit humans to be in contact with bisphenol A in high doses? To influence regulation, scientists and policymakers work together to draft new policy. Weight of evidence influences that policy. Vom Saal and Hughes reviewed the 161 animal studies with bisphenol A conducted between 1997-2006. They correlated results with funding source.

Chemical corporations fund studies that give desired results. They publish those in trade journals, and reference those when lobbying lawmakers. This creates doubt. Creating doubt is a game industry plays to influence policy. It has been effective to postpone regulation that would hurt their industry, despite the consequences for human health.

It is imperative that the public be involved in the political process. Get to know your political representatives. By contacting them, you can insist that junk science be abandoned. I’m glad one visitor to our blog brought up SB1713, a senate bill to curb the use of bisphenol A in products we come in contact with. Also, contact your local representative to lend your support to California AB 2058. If signed into law, this bill would require large grocery chains and pharmacies statewide to charge a 25 cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags if a 70% reduction in plastic bag usage is not achieved by the end of 2010.

Best regards,
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

JUNK PSA #4: Toxic Chemistry

As JUNK roars towards the half way mark, another reminder of what this voyage is all about: drawing public attention to some of the ecological and human health impacts associated with plastic. Like Bisphenol A in baby bottles and toys

Heres Marcus chatting about BPA from the middle of the Pacific Ocean:

Continued thanks to our generous communications sponsors - Long Beach Marine Electronics, OCENS Inc., and Explorer Satellite for making these videos possible.

In April, Canada became the first country to ban baby bottles containing BPA. Will the US follow suit?

Read more!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Debate with a skeptic Part II

A while back, we posted some comments from Dr. Williscroft, who questioned our claims that the plastic marine debris issue is a significant one, and warrants immediate action.

An interesting addendum to the story: I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Williscroft at a presentation I gave last week to the Los Angeles Adventurers club. To my surprise, he was extremely amiable, and interested in our research, he simply wanted to see quantitative data to illustrate our claims. Fair enough.

The response from Marcus generated further debate on both ends. For those who have followed this lively dialogue, heres part deux:

"I appreciate your reasoned response, but I still see little quantitative information to sink my teeth into. First, while the story of the train wreck is interesting, it misses the point. This was an example of an urgent problem that was NOT being addressed. I suspect you are addressing a no-urgent problem with unwarranted urgency. You state: “…the density of pelagic plastic has doubled since 2005.” This is the kind of statement that is widely used to camouflage fuzzy data. Mind you, I’m NOT saying you are doing this, but this isn’t substantive information. If there was one acre of trash in 2005 and not there is two acres (a doubling), it’s a non problem. If there were twenty thousand acres in 2005, and that has doubled – that strikes me as more noteworthy. But when compared to the vast expanse of the world’s oceans, is even that a “problem” with urgent considerations?"

And now, a response from Marcus:

Dear Robert G. Williscroft, PhD

It seems you misunderstood my point about the urgency to address the plastic marine debris issue. If you “do not see quantitative information to sink your teeth into,” as you state, may I request again that you visit our website for references to the work of our scientists and others. Or browse any university library and scroll through the Marine Pollution Bulletin, or search the index catalog for names like C. Moore, A. Andrady, H. Takada, or R. Thompson. You will find substantial quantitative evidence to document all of our scientific claims. If your sincere interest is a scientific argument, then I strongly suggest you start there. At the end of this response, I have included a list of publications for your review.

From your response, I gather that scientific articles may not be sufficient. To this I have no response. The peer review process in scientific journals is the best available means to share data around the world, other than dragging every scientist into your lab to see physical phenomena with their own eyes. In the peer review process a proposed scientific study is anonymously criticized by other leading scientists in that field. Almost always, the first task is to point out errors in statistical measures or significance. You appear to doubt the statistical significance of our data, therefore, since you live in Southern California, I invite you to visit our lab in Redondo Beach. You will be given a personal tour so that you can see the physical phenomena with your own eyes.

The occurrence of plastic marine debris throughout the North Pacific Ocean is well documented, as are the hundreds of species found with plastic marine debris in or around their bodies. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation has found significant concentrations of DDT, PCBs and PAHs sorbed onto plastic marine debris. Other studies show that the compounds migrate from ingested plastic into the bodies of some organisms. In other research it is well documented that these man-made synthetic chemicals are carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors, and can be attributed to other ailments found in wildlife and humans. There is also wide evidence that man-made synthetic chemicals are bioaccumulating and biomagnifying up the food chain. As I said in my earlier response, the current scientific question is, “Are persistent organic pollutants consumed by marine organisms bioaccumulating up the food chain and into the fisheries that we harvest?”

Admittedly, the causal links from plastic trash in our storm drains, to marine debris, to wildlife contamination and human health concerns, is a difficult chain to connect. Yet, this logical circle is fearfully coming to fruition. Add to this the exponential growth of plastic trash accumulating in the world’s oceans. The plastics industry reported U.S. production of 120 billion pounds of plastic annually, representing a 100% increase in 15 years. This parallels the growth of plastic trash found in the North Pacific Gyre. In 2003 the California Integrated Waste Management Board reported that 25% of plastic produced could not be accounted for through recycling programs, durable goods, or landfills. We are seeing that missing plastic waste accumulating in our oceans. A burgeoning sense of urgency is the meeting of these two roads: our throwaway society, and long-term human health. But, this is not a scientific argument. It is a moral one.

To say that you need to see the effect before you address the cause is unwise considering the global impact of plastic marine debris, especially when all the causal links are illuminating long-term human health concerns. If prosperity, longevity and security of human populations worldwide are tantamount, then employ the precautionary principle.

“There is evidence for adverse health effects in animals, significant human exposure, and safer alternatives are readily available, therefore, until proven otherwise, plastic marine debris and the associated sorbed toxins and pre-production plasticers should be assumed to impact human health. Scientific certainty is not required prior to taking regulatory action.”

If your fear is economics, as you eluded to in your initial reply, then I suggest alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and our throwaway society that are healthy for the environment, our bodies and the marketplace. While much of the developed world embraces a cultural shift to the Sustainable Century, the United States resists departing the Synthetic Century. I would rather see our nation lead rather than lag behind. Markets in alternatives to disposable plastics, like stainless steel water bottles and coffee mugs, and cloth grocery bags, are soaring. To show good faith, when I return to Los Angeles I’ll send you a reusable water bottle. In fact, you can have one of the 100 stainless steel ones we have on JUNK as a souvenir.

Meanwhile, here’s a list of references.

Robards, M. D.; Gould, P. J.; Piatt, J. F. The highest global concentrations and increased abundance of oceanic plastic debris in the North Pacific: Evidence from seabirds. In Marine Debris; Coe, J. M.; Rogers, D. B., Eds.; Springer: Berlin, 1997.
Reddy, M. S.; Basha, S.; Adimurthy, S.; Ramachandraiah, G. Description of the plastics fragments in marine sediments along the Alang-Sosiya ship-breaking yard, India. Estuarine, Coastal Shelf Sci. 2006, 68, 656-660.
Carpenter, E. J.; Anderson, S. J.; Harvey, G. R.; Miklas, H. P.; Peck, B. B. Polystyrene spherules in coastal water. Science (Washington, DC, U.S.) 1972, 178, 749-750.
Ng, K. L.; Obbard, J. P. Prevalence of microplastics in Singapore’s coastal marine environment. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 2006, 52, 761- 767.
Gregory, M. R. Plastic “scrubbers” in hand cleansers: A further (and minor) source for marine pollution identified. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 1996, 32, 867-871.
George, G. A. Weathering of polymers. Mater. Forum 1995, 19, 145-161.
Wurl, O.; Obbard, J. P. A review of pollutants in the sea-surface microlayer (SML): A unique habitat for marine microorganisms. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 2004, 48, 1016-1030.

Thompson, R. C., Teuten, E., Rowland, S. J., Galloway, T. Potential for Plastics to Transport Hydrophobic Contaminants. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2007, 41, 7759-7764.
Rios, L. M.; Moore, C.; Jones, P. R. Persistent organic pollutants carried by synthetic polymers in the ocean environment. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 2007, 54, 1230-1237.
Mato, Y.; Isobe, T.; Takada, H.; Kanehiro, H.; Ohtake, C.; Kaminuma, T. Plastic resin pellets as a transport medium for toxic chemicals in the marine environment. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2001, 35, 308-324.
Ye, S.; Andrady, A. L. Fouling of floating plastic debris under Biscayne Bay exposure conditions. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 1991, 22, 608-613.
Brunauer, S.; Emmett, P. H.; Teller, E. Adsorption of gases in multimolecular layers. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1938, 60, 309-319.
Hardy, J. T.; Crecelius, E. A.; Antrim, L. D.; Keiesser, S. L.; Broadhurst, V. L.; Boehm, P. D.; Steinhauer, W. G.; Coogan, T. H. Aquatic surface microlayer contamination in Chesapeake Bay. Mar. Chem. 1990, 28, 333-351.
Pascall, M. A.; Zabik, M. A.; Zabik, M. J.; Hernandez, R. J. Uptake of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from an aqueous medium by polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polystyrene films. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 164-169.

Derraik, J. G. B. The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: A review. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 2002, 44, 842-852.
Laist, D. W. Impacts of marine debris: Entanglement of marine life in debris including a comprehensive list of species with entanglement and ingestion records. In Marine Debris; Coe, J. M.; Rogers, D. B., Eds.; Springer: Berlin, 1997.
Fry, D. M.; Fefer, S. I.; Sileo, L. Ingestion of plastic by laysan albatrosses and wedge-tailed shearwaters in the Hawaiian Islands. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 1987, 18, 339-343.
Eriksson, C.; Burton, H. Origins and biological accumulation of small plastic particles in fur seals from Macquire Island. Ambio 2003 32, 380-384.

Ryan, P. G.; Connell, A. D.; Gardener, B. D. Plastic ingestion and PCBs in seabirds: Is there a relationship? Mar. Pollut. Bull. 1988, 19, 174-176.
Thompson, R. C.; Olsen, Y.; Mitchell, R. P.; Davis, A.; Rowland, S. J.; John, A. W. G.; McGonigle, D.; Russell, A. Lost at sea: Where is all the plastic? Science (Washington, DC, U.S.) 2004, 304, 838.
Voparil, I. M.; Mayer, L. A. Dissolution of sedimentary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons into the lugworm’s (Arenicola marina) digestive fluids. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2000, 34, 1221-1228.
Voparil, I. M.; Mayer, L. A. Commercially available chemicals that mimic a deposit feeder’s (Arenicola marina) digestive solubilization of lipids. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2004, 38, 4334- 4339.
Lu, X.; Reible, D. D.; Fleeger, J. W. Relative importance of ingested sediment versus pore water as uptake routes for PAHs to the deposit-feeding oligochaete Ilyodrilus templetoni. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 2004, 47, 207-214.
Weston, D. P.; Penry, D. L.; Gulmann, L. K. The role of ingestion as a route of contaminant bioaccumulation in a deposit-feeding polychaete. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 2000, 38, 446- 454.
Timmermann, K.; Anderson, O. Bioavailability of pyrene to the deposit-feeding polychaete Arenicola marina: Importance of sediment versus water uptake routes. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 2003, 246, 163-172.
Lamoureux, E. M.; Brownawell, B. J. Chemical and biological availability of sediment-sorbed hydrophobic organic contaminants. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 1999, 18, 1733-1741.

Finally, a response from Tamara Adkins, Doctoral Candidate from Antioch University:

I appreciate the attention Dr. Robert G. Williscroft has given to the voyage of the Junk. I was curious to know more about him, and scanned his resume and list of publications online. His impressive credentials include supervising the National Science Foundation Atmospheric Research Program at the South Pole, Given his expertise, I would expect an evidence-based rebuttal to the messages to which Dr Eriksen is bringing our attnetion. If he is aware of studies that would lead to us believe that plastic debris is not increasing in the ocean, or that it is not a threat to wildlife, I would be interested in seeing it.

As an endocrine disruption researcher, the weight of evidence certainly supports the toxicity of even very low doses of many of the monomers and additives found in common plastics (such as phthalates, bisphenol-A, styrene, vinyl chloride, organotin, lead, etc.). Adding these contaminants to the marine food chain does not seem wise. However, I subscribe to the precautionary principle -- the idea that if the risk of catastrophic harm is highly likely but not proven, it would make sense to delay action until further research results are compiled. (This, of course, assumes that not taking action is an option, and that it does not carry its own risks). I suspect, based on the reviews, of Dr Williscroft's book "Chicken Little,", that he does not subscribe to the precautionary principle. In his book, he "debunks" global warming and the hole in the ozone layer, as well as addressing unfounded fears about "terrorists, illegal immigrants, the Bird Flu, fuel dependency, food toxicity, antibiotic resistant bacteria". Mixing politics with science is familiar territory for Dr. Williscroft.

Read more!

Monday, July 21, 2008


A few posts back, we heard about Marcus and Joel patiently stalking - and then stocking - some fresh Mahi Mahi. After eating their fill, they decorated JUNK with strings of Mahi Jerky, using every available's Marcus to tell you all about it.

And now, a few responses from Marcus and Joel to some recent blog comments:

Don Geagan and everyone,

Thanks you and everyone for your well wishes as we make our way across the Pacific. Everyday is a challenge. The first thing we do each morning is to make sure nothing is falling apart. This morning we patched a hole in one of the pontoons that had been sawing against a mast all night long. No bottles lost.
What makes all of this easier to deal with is the feedback from home. It would be a much different voyage without your support. We recognize that this project is a huge team effort. We've had amazing sponsorship from business and private donors. A steady stream of volunteers helped every day to construct the raft. Anna Cummins, our blogwriter, keeps us in the loop and maintains an awesome blog site. Captain Charles Moore, of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, keeps us informed of storms and predicts our progress using current models. We just get to be the lucky sailors on the raft.
Thank you for your kind support. It means everything to us.

Marcus and Joel


Sorry your wind generator is giving you trouble. Tell Jody to smear 3M-5200 over the wires, then drop it in the ocean, tangle some fishing line in it while it's spinning, then let a couple more wires catch fire in the cockpit. That ought to fix everything. It worked for us.


Leah B.

We're landing in Alawai Harbor at the public dock if the winds and waves allow us to stay north of the 21st parallel. Please stay in touch with our blog. We'll have more details when we get closer.

Thanks for getting in touch.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Guido and Van Buren make CNN

Thanks to Glenn, Pam, and Josh, a wonderful JUNK clip on CNN. Experimental hair stages and all.....

Craving a departure from the daily routine, Marcus and Joel have fun with the razor. Meet Guido and Van Buren.

JUNK is currently zipping along, making 50 miles a day for the last few day. If there is such a thing as "at this rate", JUNK will make her mid-late August arrival in Honolulu. Read more!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cyclone sailing

July 18
The East trade winds are consistently blowing 15-20 knots, pushing us 40-45 miles per day. We’ve got the JUNK square sail flying for the first time. Hopefully it’s downwind all the way. There are still 30 degrees of longitude left to cross - 1800 miles. If we can maintain 300 miles a week, we’ll get there by the end of August. To put it into perspective, that’s driving from Los Angeles to New Orleans at two miles per hour for the next six weeks. Martigras anyone?

We’re getting some wind from the cyclones down below. A plus for us: were in the cold water, where cyclones die. We’re riding the 23rd parallel, where the water is around 65 degrees. Down south, below 20 degrees latitude, temperatures rise to 80, perfect bath water for a cyclone.

Right now the seas are 6-8 feet, with sporadic white caps that spill over the deck of JUNK. All of our fish jerky is hanging in the cabin to dry above Joel’s head. We’re both only pages away from finishing Don Quixote. When we get bored we pump the watermaker, adjust the sails, grab a few almonds for a snack, and gaze at the coming waves. Read more!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Go fish, come wind!

July 15th

For 5 weeks we’ve clawed our way from the coastal wind and currents of North America, to find ourselves completely becalmed. For three days we made a figure 8 track within a 10 x 10 mile box northwest of 23N lattitude and 123W longitude. Go figure. No.. go fish! Here's a clip of our recent Mahi adventures, esp. for those inquiring about our nutrition situation:

We hadn't seen any fish for two weeks, but sit still for a few days and somethings bound to show up. Each day we saw a Mahi Mahi appear, and each day we caught and ate it. Sashimi, broiled fillet, coconut curry, and with the 3rd and final catch, I made jerky. We’ve got enough fish jerky hanging in the cabin to feed us for two months, and it’s rather aromatic too.

But fortunately those becalmed days are gone. Two days ago Joel was swimming across the mirror-like surface of the water. Suddenly a puff of wind blew across the deck. “Hey Joel,” I yelled. “Looks like we got some wind.” Quickly the mizzen sail spun around and the ocean surface grew ripples. “I guess I ought to come back,” Joel replied. We raised the spinnaker and headed due west. We haven’t stopped. In 48 hours we’ve traveled more than 90 miles. We’re in the East Tradewinds! Only 1850 miles to Hawaii. Stay with us. Read more!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Synthetic Sea: a reminder of why were doing this

JUNK is currently gliding west, stocked with fresh Mahi Mahi, deck covered with fish jerky drying in the briny breeze, riding high on a few newly fashioned pontoon-ettes.

While we wait for a detailed update, heres an excellent reminder of why we are doing this. Watch this short version of "Synthetic Sea", Algalita's signature documentary on plastics pollution in our ocean. This is the film that first put Algalita's research on the map.

Seeing this film in 2002 lead to my own lifelong fascination with plastics pollution, and ensuing involvement with Algalita. It would be difficult to watch this and NOT feel that this is an issue that warrants more attention, understanding, and action. Read more!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are we starving? Hell no!

And we're finally catching some fish!

Seeing the recent posts about running out of cabbage and cheese, and dwindling canned veggies, some have expressed concern about JUNK's food situation. FEAR NOT! Our sailors have been rationing their remaining perishables, but haven't begun to touch their dried goods - a good 2 months worth, thanks to generous sponsorships from Whole Foods Market and Kashi. The full breakdown follows for those interested - this doesn't include the emergency MRE's Marcus stashed in the pontoons, nor the fish that they are beginning to catch, like last nights Mahi Mahi! Here's the story of Joel's determined mission to land some sashimi...

The morning sun brought another day of calm seas and less than 5 knots of wind. Breakfast consisted of 8 slices of salami followed by a chunk of cheddar cheese. We’re consuming perishables first. For lunch we turned this around and actually ate the cheddar cheese first, followed by salami.

“Hey Joel. How’s the cabbage doin?” I asked.
“Yeah, we’ve got to peel a few leaves today,” he replied.

Throughout the day we occupy our time independently on various personal projects. Joel worked the Frankensail a bit more. I tied a couple 2x4s under a spot where the deck was tearing into one of the pontoons. By the time 5pm rolls around one of us, usually me, asks, “So, what are we eating today?”
Cabbage. Dinner will be cabbage with pesto sauce. We could of course delve into our rations in buckets, but we’re not sure how much longer we’ll be here. We originally considered this to be a six-week voyage. It’s not the sixth week and there are at least six more to go. We’ve agreed that it’s better to be disciplined now rather than hungry later.
Joel whipped up a mean cabbage salad with pesto and a little bleu cheese. I settled into the cockpit with my bowl. Joel was still outside stalking.
Hours ago he spied a fish. It was our first fish sighting in two weeks. Interestingly, we had just called Don McFarland moments earlier. Don and three others rafted to Hawaii in 1958. This was our first call to him while at sea.

“You guys seeing any fish?” Don asked.
“Not a single one,” I replied.
“That’s strange. We had fish almost every day. How about barnacles?” He was referring to the Gooseneck Barnacle that attaches to marine debris. “You can pull those off and suck the juice out of them.” We had done that months ago when we joined Captain Charles Moore studying plastic in the North Pacific Gyre. Charlie made a barnacle rice dish with the broth. It wasn’t half bad.
“No Don, no barnacle eating yet,” I replied. An hour later Joel was dancing across the deck.

“MAHI MAHI,” he yelled. For the next few hours he stalked the fish around the deck, fishing lure in one hand, spear gun in the other. Mahi Mahi are curious fish and will chase anything bouncing across the surface. After hours of trying, Joel took a seat in the cockpit and began slicing cabbage.
I was eating my bowl of cabbage when Joel exclaimed, “You’ve got to see this.” The fish was almost stationary under the starboard bow, with only his head out of view. It was as if the fish was thinking, “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.” But in this case, half its body was exposed less than two feet below the surface.
I ran back for my camera. Joel cocked the spear gun. “Swoosh!” the spear penetrated the fish, sending it wriggling across the surface.
“We’ve got to get it in,” I yelled, as I yanked the fish onto the bow netting. Joel, cautious of the spear from the gun, lunged onto the fish, grabbing the end of the spear to hold it down. I ran back for my makeshift spear, the one made from a piece of aluminum boat railing, and ended the ordeal.
“I wanna eat it,” Joel said with determination.
“Sashimi or steak?” I asked.
While I cleaned the fish, chef Joel sautéed a bit of garlic, ginger and lemon with two tablespoons of butter. It took half an hour for me to fully clean the fish, stripping skin from meat, meat from bone. I hung 10 pieces for jerky. The pot was overflowing with fresh fish. The skeleton was also hung from the railing of the raft. We’ll pick on that later once it dries.
By 9:00 pm we were enjoying our first taste of fish in weeks. We will eat like kings for a couple of days. What we can’t eat will be dried in the sun. What we couldn’t pull off the bones will be used as bait. Nothing is wasted. This gift from the sea is a blessing.
Thank you Don for wishing us fish.

And now a rough inventory of our supplies:
Perishables: 4 lbs cheddar cheese, 10 lemons and limes, three cabbages, 2 bags of salami and pesto sauce, and bleu cheese.
Dried goods: 23 bags of Kashi cereal, 10 lbs. rice, 4 lbs. nuts, 4 boxes granola, 2 boxes granola bars, 30 protein bars, 8 jars Peanut butter, 5 packs beef jerky (and fish jerky in the making), 4 boxes red beans and rice, 1 bag cookies, 10 boxes mac and cheese, 11 assorted dehydrated entrees, 27 Tasty Bite dinners, 3 lbs dried beans, large bags of dried apples and pineapples, 5 lbs dried soup, 5 jars pwd. Milk.
Other: 3 jars honey, 1 large jar strawberry jam, 10 cans veggies, 1 bucket of M+Ms, large bottle olive oil, and 7 MREs.

And more fish we hope.
Read more!

Junk PSA #3: Plastic particles as toxic sponges

Continued thanks to our communication sponsors, Long Beach Marine Electronics, OCENS Inc., and Explorer Satellite for making video, blog, and phone communications possible - critical elements to this project.

In PSA #3, Marcus discusses how plastic particles absorb Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), becoming little toxic pills. What impact does these have on the creatures that ingest plastic debris?

Read more!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Addressing the concerns of a skeptic

A while back, we received this comment from Robert Williscroft, author of “The Chicken Little Agenda”. We’re posting his comment and responses here.

"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 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."

And now a few responses here:
A thorough study of the problem is precisely what Captain Charles Moore and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation have been doing since 1997, concluding that yes, it is a serious issue. And unfortunately, as we take our time devising “appropriate solutions”, the problem only continues to worsen. We need to adopt a precautionary principle, before implementing solutions becomes too late.
In addition to the impacts on marine ecosystems and human health, the plastic debris issue is a warning signal that our rampant consumerism and disregard for resources cannot continue unabated.

Here’s a response from Marcus:

Dear Robert G. Williscroft, PhD,

Let me clarify “urgent action” beginning with a story. During the summer of 2002 I was backpacking through Tanzania when news of a train wreck made headlines. In Dar es Salaam a passenger train lost connection to the engine while in the station and began sliding backwards. People on the train, mostly families leaving the city for their villages west, did not get the urgency of the moment. You could walk as fast as the train was rolling. The workers and engineers frantically tried to set brakes on the 20+ cars slowly rolling downhill. Those who studied the train mechanics and knew the regional geography could predict the future. They understood “urgent action”. The passengers did not until several hours and 60 miles later, when the train sped over 100 mph backwards, derailed, killing more than 200 people.

On our blog site there are many references to our organization, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. I urge you to visit site and read our peer-reviewed science articles describing the problem. In summary, after 6 expeditions to the North Pacific Gyre, we’ve discovered steadily increasing concentrations of plastic debris. Earlier this year Anna, Joel and I, founders of the JUNK project, joined Captain Charles Moore aboard the ORV Alguita for another expedition. Having yet to quantify the new samples, conservatively it appears the density of pelagic plastic has doubled since 2005.
You will also find another article, published in a peer reviewed scientific journal, about persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that absorb and adsorb onto plastic marine debris. We found high concentrations of PCBs, PAHs and pesticides on plastic floating in the North Pacific Gyre.
If you conduct a simple literature review, you will find other articles pointing to the many organisms that consume plastic marine debris. A meta-analysis of current literature found 267 species have been documented with plastic marine debris in or around their bodies. This includes 44% of all seabirds, 22 cetaceans, all marine turtles and countless fish. Our 2008 expedition revealed plastic particles in a quarter of the myctophid fish caught in our sampling nets. And in many cases, we are finding that those POPs are migrating from ingested plastic marine debris into to organisms that consume it.

Science has shown that plastic is rapidly accumulating in the world’s oceans. That plastic sorbs toxins, many of which are known human carcinogens, many organisms eat plastic. The scientific question that we are addressing now is, “Are persistent organic pollutants consumed by organisms bio-accumulating up the food chain and into the fisheries that we harvest?”
The environmental issue is apparent to the scientific community. The human health issue is becoming clear as good science gets presented, argued and published appropriately. What we see as a runaway train, requiring “Urgent Action” understandably falls on deaf ears to those not aware of the issue. Data determines urgency.

Again, I urge you to review the science behind the issue. I would enjoy a conversation about solutions, and request, as you suggest, keeping political grandstanding to other blogs.


Marcus Eriksen, PhD
Director of Research and Education
Algalita Marine Research Foundation
Navigator of JUNK
Read more!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Squid Lock

July 9, 2008 Another day of relative calm, but not becalmed. There is wind, but barely enough to keep the sails full. Joel took the opportunity to work on his Frankensail. I dove below the raft to install five more mini-pontoons. First I needed to bring in the fishing line. As I reeled it in I saw a short slender object hanging to the hook. It seems that at some point hours earlier we snagged a giant squid. I inspected the tentacle a bit closer and to my amazement found little teeth surrounding the periphery of the suction cup. I guess it’s not just suction they use to hang on to their can check out the squid bit - now bait - here:

In a couple of hours we finished our work. The starboard side was sitting another 4 inches out of the water and the Frankensail was flying again. I looked overboard to inspect my work and saw two sardine-size fish coming to JUNK. I haven’t seen fish in a week. Hopefully some large and tasty ones will follow. We finished the day with a meal of onion soup, pepperoni on crackers, and a hefty chunk of cheddar cheese. Joel, the resident chef, has this to say about our culinary horizon:
Our mouths water thinking about the early days of the voyage when we had to eat as much perishable food as possible - bacon, lox and filet with only one can of beans left (I cracked the delabeled can code) we’re adjusting to a new reduced diet.

Cabbage is the last veggie to go bad. We’ve been eating cabbage salad every day for 2 weeks – with oil or pesto sauce, chopped onion, blue cheese, and black pepper. All things said and done, not bad. When the last of our cabbage, and our remaining 6 bls of cheese go, were going to play the following food game:

We'll agree on an identical amount of food and eat only this for 6 days. Who ever doesn't drop out or has the most left at the end wins bragging rights. On the 7th day we feast! Not only will it help stretch our stores, it should be entertaining, at least for us. And if we catch a fish all bets are off. Anyone else want to play?

Coming up: JUNK video PSA #3: Plastic particles as toxic sponges

Read more!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mile countdown and tainted cans

July 8, 2008
Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999! At 4:20pm we passed the 2000-mile mark at roughly 24N latitude, 122W longitude. It’s a HUGE landmark in our journey and mental stamina. To celebrate we’re going to dice one of the few remaining cabbage cores (we peel off wilting leaves daily, leaving potato-size, white, bitter cores) and add a bit of pesto sauce. The strips of cabbage look like pasta, and the more we mumble words like “bowtie, penne, linguini” while we eat it, the more we think it is. For our main course, carrot soup with a can of vegetable medley mixed in. Joel has become an expert at identifying the contents of de-labeled cans based on the faint serial numbers printed on top.

Speaking of cans: Have you read Our Stolen Future by chance? The authors describe in fascinating detail, the impact of synthetic chemicals on our lives, including that thin plastic film lining the inside of metal cans, like the ones we’re eating from. Most of the canned veggies on American grocer shelves are lined with Bisphenol-A, the building block of polycarbonate plastic. It keeps the metal from degrading and prevents that metallic taste liquid can quickly absorb. What’s interesting about Bisphenol-A is the ability of this manmade compound to mimic estrogen.
Bisphenol-A has been found to leach into surrounding liquids at room temperature and remain bioactive, even after consumption. Scientific studies have linked Bisphenol-A to tumors in mammary glands and the male prostate, insulin resistance, and endocrine disruption, resulting in the disruption of sexual development of males and females invitro. What’s startling is that it only takes a few parts per billion during critical windows of development to cause lifelong effects. The last thing you want is a little Bisphenol-A, and it’s estrogenic properties, swirling around your male fetus when he’s trying to develop testicles...

Back to our voyage.

We’re going more west than south now. We average a bearing of 240 degrees, with a range of 10 degrees either side. Two months of this, hopefully less, and we’ll be eating poke and fresh pineapple, sans can. Read more!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


To pick up the pace and take full advantage of the winds, Joel created.....FRANKENSAIL. Beautiful she is not, however FRANKENSAIL added a knot of speed to JUNK's progress. Function beats form by a long shot in this situation.

Read more!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

4th of July fiesta - beans and reusables!

A few posts back, Marcus mentioned a food inventory, and suggested that some belt tightening might be in order. Not sure I believe him after seeing this photo.....

JUNK has some big 4th of July plans, including BEANS, cabbage flowers, and reusables. Sounds like a blast, anyone want to join?

"We will celebrate with beans. Maybe a chunk of cheddar mixed in. To tide us over till the big feast, I tore leaves off one of our few remaining heads of cabbage for an afternoon snack. I noticed something strange in the middle – a flower. I’ve never seen one before in cabbage - reminds us of terrestrial life....

As you plan for your picnic, we suggest reusables at the table. Things like real silverware, plates and napkins. The throwaway disposable stuff never goes “away” - we’re finding it here in the ocean. Two days ago I watched a bottle cap float by. Perhaps long ago, on some past 4th of July, someone dropped that bottle cap. Years and miles later, it’s here.

Coming up: How Joel's new FRANKENSAIL helps JUNK pick up a knot of speed. Read more!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kudos from AMRF Board members

The Board members of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation would like to acknowledge the tremendous achievements of Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal, now one month into their journey across the Pacific Ocean on JUNK.

This ambitious mission to bring Algalita’s research on plastic debris to a wider audience has already been a success, as evidenced by coverage in numerous media channels – most recently a wonderful piece in the LA Times.

For the past ten years, Algalita has been leading the charge to research, quantify, and communicate the ecological impacts of plastic pollution on the marine environment. We are now working to expand our research to identify the manner in which plastic impacts our marine environment with greater specificity.

The Board is pleased to see that the JUNK expedition is bringing public attention to our research findings -- effective communication is key to our foundation’s success. Joel and Marcus, we stand behind your inspiring efforts with pride, and send you our best wishes for a safe and speedy return.


AMRF Board of Directors. Read more!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One month milestone: knot for naught

“One month ago right now....” is how we’ve begun several conversations today. This morning one month ago I awoke in a bed. This afternoon one month ago we spoke to an audience of at least 300 people bidding JUNK farewell. Though we guessed 6 weeks at sea, looks like there are 8 more to go. We’ve accepted this reality, necessitating that we plan well. Nothing like some long hours at sea for divine inspiration....

We’ve been sailing South-Southwest 190 degrees at .7 knots. We want to go west, in the direction the wind is coming from, the direction of Hawaii. Yesterday we took a section of mast from the deck, lashed it to a spare rudder, and vertically plunged it 4 feet below the boat. This makeshift dagger board improved our progress to 200 degrees an 1.2 knots! This morning Joel finished fabricating a sail from scrap pieces, lots of string and duct tape. That improvement got us up to 215 degrees at 1.8 knots. We’re shaving off the miles and days from Hawaii. Now we’re sailing! But there are cyclones nearby.

Eastern Pacific Tropical Storms are hovering 200 miles south of us. We are hoping that their counterclockwise spin will give us the east wind we need raise our downwind sail. We’re anxious to see what downwind/downcurrent sailing feels like. How much faster will we be able to countdown the miles? As a crow flies, we are 2095 miles from Hawaii. That’s two months or less.

Then there’s food. We’ve done our inventory of food and figure that we can live on what we’ve got, provided we make another spear and get some fish. In the meantime we consume primarily our consumables. Tonight’s dinner we will share one can of beans with half and onion cubed on top. Several large chunks of cheddar cheese will float and melt in the middle of the bowl. Bon appetit! Read more!