Monthly Archives: June 2012

Years to come

DAY 15 – Tuesday 26th June 2012   29° 17′ N 178° 20′ E

We’ve been sailing for  over two weeks now, the Sea Dragon is a beautiful vessel, it’s incredible to be at the helm or on bow lookout as she moves through the swells. Weather has been a bit wearing, squalls regularly soaking us with rain and seas coming on board covering us in saltwater. Below decks is pretty disgusting, wet and smelly, we need some sunshine and dry weather soon.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped Two Hands Project send me on this expedition, I feel immense gratitude to you all, without your support I wouldn’t be here. I am learning so much out here.

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask? About the voyage,  tsunami debris, plastic pollution or life on board Sea Dragon? If so fire away, our shore support will relay the questions and I will endeavour to answer them next post.

Today we’ve been joined by a Wandering Albatross, a privilege indeed, these incredible birds spend the majority of their lives on the wing, effortlessly gliding for thousands of miles. They actually lock their wings in flight position so as not to expend muscle energy holding them in place.

Our other avian companions are a quartet of Tropic Birds, white bodied with black beaks and trailing tail plumes as long again as their bodies. These guys are so perfectly set up for life in the air their legs are practically useless, when they make landfall for breeding they’ll crash land and drag themselves about on the ground.

We’re still spotting tsunami debris, our most significant find has been the bow of a Japanese fishing boat, with ID markings intact. We hope the owner will be found alive and safe in Japan. Having visited devastated fishing villages in Japan finds like this are sobering.

Finding tsunami debris this far south west is important, as it demonstrates the debris field is incredibly widespread. We’ll be seeing flotsam from the tsunami reaching the US mainland for many years to come.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to me, is that in two weeks of sampling and observing we have only found one piece of natural driftwood. Compared with the abundance of synthetic flotsam this simply blows my mind.

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Tsunami debris& Boobies AHOY!

DAY 11 – Tuesday 20th June 2012   30° 30.5′ N 167° 26.6′ E

The dawn watch is the best, particularly when sailing east, I am fast falling in love with the open ocean. I greet the sun standing in the bows, with a pool net in hand, scooping plastic from the sea.  The ocean looks like a giant swimming pool, clear depths and gentle swell….

A pair of Boobies (birds that is) were flying about Sea Dragon, dropping to pluck flying fish out of the air as our bow wave startled the fish into leaping from the water. Such an amazing behaviour to observe, a bird catching fish on the wing!

Boobies indicate land is near, they don’t range as far as some birds, on checking the charts we saw we are around 600 Nautical Miles north of Wake Is. where they are known to nest.

We are now in the south eastern part of the tsunami debris field and are spotting objects regularly. The tsunami debris we find here will be floating on or just below the waterline, providing little windage to be blown east, indeed that is reflected in what we are finding. Buckets, shoes, bottles, toys and so forth.

Two items we have recovered that are almost certainly tsunami debris is some traditional Japanese floor matting and a light truck tyre of the sort used in Japan. The rate of degradation and colonisation by marine life puts both of these objects as entering the ocean in the correct time period. We still hope to find some traceable debris.

I spotted a rare glass float, it appears to be a recent one, and we bought it on board. Marcus said some fish farms in Korea are still using them. Glass is a much better material than plastic in this application, is inert when in the environment and does not carry toxins or pollute.. Bring back glass floats! These floats are beautiful, I have dreamed of finding one for years.. I offered to fight Marcus for possession of the float, though lucky for me he refused (the guy is an ex Marine, my only hope of winning would be to shout “look, tsunami debris!!” then hit him from behind  :-D )

Typhoon Guchol is moving fast up the Japanese coast, bringing flood & strong winds. Though it is unlikely to hit us directly it is a huge storm, comparable to Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans…. Rodrigo our skipper is unsure of what it will mean to us, though 30ft plus swells and high winds aren’t out of the question. Our storm sails have been checked and are on deck in readiness.With luck that is how they will stay.

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Japanese characters

DAY 7 – Saturday 16th June 2012

30° 6.4′ N 159° 34.2′ E  ( 1800km of japan)                                                                Today was a brilliant, sun shining with a gentle swell, it’s Saturday and we have been at sea for seven days. The wind has dropped and as we are under time restraints we have been motoring all day. This isn’t ideal, though it does allow us more maneuverability when we spot debris, and this morning we hit a dense patch.

15 year projection of tsunami Debris- by Uni of Hawaii

We recovered a bucket with Japanese characters (which may be tsunami debris), a bundle of rope and packing strap, some kind of natural fibre/plastic/foam composite building material or cladding and numerous small items, including a hair comb. We passed dozens of other small fragments of plastic, bottles and debris which we couldn’t collect.

The most striking thing about this plastic is it is all being colonised by a wide variety of life, it is being used as substrate for animals to lay eggs on and as shelter from predators. Some of the larger pieces are becoming floating eco-systems of their own, allowing species to exist where they shouldn’t. On our bundle of rope we found a frog-fish! Certainly not an animal one would expect to encounter mid-ocean.. This ability for plastic pollution to shelter and transport exotic species is cause for concern.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was spotting a pod of Sperm Whale off our starboard bow, we didn’t get that close though they have a distinctive spout pattern which made an id possible. The whales hung around for a while then we lost them when they dived. These animals can dive to great depths and spend over 45 minutes under water.

Looks like we’ll have a few more days of weather like this, hopefully the wind will pick up and we can make our way under sail instead of motoring.

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little red dot

Finally on our way!

DAY 5 – Thursday 14th June 2012

The Sea Dragon left Yokohoma port on Sunday and we have been sailing for five days!!  The GPS puts us 33° 15.9′ North, 151° 3.6′ East.  Over 1000km of the coast for Japan, but  much farther south than we intended, though at the mercy of the winds this is our best course! We’ll be heading north east soon to intercept the Tsunami Debris field.

There’s been some pretty uncomfortable sailing, heavy rain at times. With around half the crew seasick…Reporting some minor damage to the boat, an unexpected swell tore one of our four life rings from the rail. Everyone has pretty much settled in though and we are keeping three hour watches, 24 hours a day.

Our experienced seafarer Stiv puts it this way:

“the rain is washing our stomach contents from Sea Dragon’s sides without the aid of the hose. Slowly, the crew is coming back to life after serious bouts with seasickness that claimed about half the crew, and put them DOWN. The Aussi is well, as are the Brits, but the Korean and the Swiss are having a rough go. The rest are about a five on a scale of ten.”

Finally, today it’s sunny in patches, with an easy swell, we are enjoying the best sailing so far, the crew are mostly on deck, hanging up some washing and the last bananas have been consumed in the form of banana bread.                                  Micro plastic sampling has started and we are keeping a log of large debris spotted. We have also collected our first water samples for Woods Hole Institute.

I can begin to imagine what the world was like before we left our mark, watching this ocean slip by, an awesome expanse of wilderness and natural beauty. Unfortunately another piece of plastic pollution drifts past interrupting my fantasy.

Oh, we just spotted our first albatross :)

Yep, the little red dot is us….

 

 

 

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Still in Yokohama, ready to leave…

After a week’s lay up in Yokohama we are finally making last preparations for departure… Fingers crossed!

It’s raining here and we’ve taken on last provisions.

Typhoon Mawar has passed and our weather window is open, it’ll be reasonably heavy going with gusts up to 35 knots and a decent swell, but the Sea Dragon was built to race around the globe so the boat can handle it and Rodrigo the skipper is capable and experienced. We on the other hand may be a bit green for the first few days. If weather keeps building we could be stuck again.. and I’m out of Yen :)

The alternator on the main engine has been replaced, with an improvised part, we have adapted a CAT alternator  to fit a Perkins engine. (Although now the rev counter is not working, we’ll have to judge revs by ear)

Our generator and water maker is up and running again, some of our samples need to be kept frozen, so the ability to generate power is paramount.

Passports have been stamped by immigration, for the second time… we are now officially confined to port until we set sail.

The last stumbling block aside from weather is that Nick, one of the scientists on board has come down with a mystery ailment, while we clear the last formalities with the port he has been bundled off to the doctor for a diagnosis and hopefully a simple prescription so we can get going. We can’t afford to lose any more time or else the objectives of the expedition may be compromised.

Marcus the expedition leader from 5 Gyres is confident if we leave today we’ll make the projected tsunami debris field with time to spare. We need that time to conduct effective sampling and searches for large debris.

Keeping effective watch is going to be a critical safety concern, the 66ft section of dock that washed up in Oregon highlights this, regardless of waterproof bulkheads and the like a collision with a piece of debris this size could be disastrous.

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Japanese media are here, ready to send us off, though I’m not sure I’ll really believe we are on our way until we are in international waters.

UPDATE! WEATHER BUILDING DELAYED AGAIN!

As I type this Rodrigo our skipper has updated the weather status, 4.5 meter swell strong headwinds, his opinion is departure today would be stupid. Rodrigo says when in higher latitudes you really have to watch your departure timing, if you don’t want to “get your arse kicked by the weather”

Looks like regardless of the outcome with Nick and his mystery ailment we will be unlikely to depart today.

Safety first. I’m happy to delay if the skipper says so.

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Waiting for typhoon Mawar to pass

We’ve now been on the Sea dragon for a week, settling in and waiting for our weather window to open to allow departure.

The major hold up has been Typhoon Mawar (Rose) which has killed eight in the Phillipines and is currently heading towards our projected course.

This storm is pretty wild, with gusts up to 130mph!! We certainly don’t want to experience those kind of conditions at sea.

One person with no choice but to weather the storm is British adventurer Sarah Outen, who is currently in the path of the storm in her attempt to row solo across the Pacific. Sarah is buckling down in the face of Mawar. It will be intense though Sarah and her state of the art carbon-fibre boat should stand up to the pounding.

Sarah Outen's current location, in the path of typhoon Mawar

 

Sea Dragon may attempt to rendezvous with Sarah to offer assistance (and chocolate) if she requires it. Her position is not too far from our first way-point.  After her ordeal friendly faces may be welcome.

Life in the harbour has been exciting too, with dodgy shipping agents trying to fleece us and clearing immigration only to be delayed and having to get our passports re stamped.. effectively we have entered Japan twice without leaving!

Not much to do now except to read, spend some time writing and waiting for typhoon Mawar to let us on our way.

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Guest Blog #1 Koh Tao by Ayesha Cantrell, Master Divers

Clean ups really make me mad, not doing them but the fact that they have to be done.  It amazes me that the human race has come so far but we still don’t seem to be able to dispose of our litter and waste properly.

I’m one of the owners of Master Divers  which is a dive centre located on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand.  It’s a small island that sees a lot of visitors and it angers me that some just don’t take care.  After all people visit because it’s beautiful: so why leave your rubbish on the beach where you have been lounging all day?  Who do you think is going to pick it up? Clearly this is not everyone but it only takes a small percentage.  Don’t they realize their rubbish is likely to end up in the ocean destroying the marine life that you have come here to snorkel and dive with ?

A particular example of this would be a small cove on Koh Tao called Laem Thien. This little bay once played host to a resort which has since been abandoned.  The road is overgrown but it makes a great hike and it’s often visited by members of our team.  The resort is like a ghost town and spooky but great fun.  Visitors hike there too and we have noticed on our visits that the resort has accumulated a lot of plastic bottles  and other general rubbish which apparently visitors to the bay have left.  I’m not sure who they thought would take them away or why, as the bottles were empty, it was such a hassle to carry them back.  We have made this cove our pet project now and regularly go to clean it up.    On our last trip we collected, amongst many other things, 7 large rubbish bags full of just plastic bottles alone. We have now sited large bins and notices so atleast the rubbish is safe from reaching the ocean.

This nicely brings me to the next topic that makes my blood boil, single use plastic! The relationship to its consumption and any clean up you will have participated in is direct.  If not, spend 30 min with 2 hands clearing up and you’ll almost certainly see what I mean. Thailand has yet to lay down any rules regarding plastic bags so the amount consumed is immense add to that the fact that tap water isn’t safe to drink and you have a plastic mountain. As we all know plastic bags are extremely dangerous to marine life and plastic in general is infected our day to lives at an alarming rate.  So while I certainly do agree we need to keep our environment tidy and waste free, if we limited our waste to start with we wouldn’t be feeding the cycle.   And you know what – this isn’t difficult to do !

Personally the team have looked at their lives and minimized as much single use plastic as they can. In our house we use large returnable and refillable drinking water containers, refill our toiletries bottles, use a mineral stick deodorant and carry re-usable cloth shopping bags for groceries etc… We’ve implemented similar measures in our dive centre too.  Free water refills are available and divers are encouraged to use our re-usable take-away pots when going out for take-away.  We provide re-usable beakers for those who pop out to get a refreshing fruit shake from the nearby vendors too. We sell branded cloth bags with a no plastic message and we use them in the day-to-day dive centre tasks too.  We think carefully about each purchase and don’t buy, for example, single service coffee sachets.  We lobby suppliers where possible; our t-shirt supply doesn’t individually wrap in plastic anymore which was a huge win!

Education on the issue is key.  We explain the issue to every guest; we have also created a t-shirt to help spread the message too.  We have filmed a short video and are currently very involved with an island wide project to limit the use of plastic straws; as more bars and restaurants get involved more want to be involved.

Check out the video here,  “>at2bui-tGLU

As I said, it didn’t take much thought or cost a lot either but the impact it’s had on the waste produced is incalculable.

So please don’t just take 30 mins with 2 hands to clean your environment, take 30 mins and think about how to limit your contribution to this cycle too and help to stop feeding the plastic mountain!

Ayesha Cantrell

Master Divers, Koh Tao

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Typhoon on the way!

We have been delayed again, our alternator still has not arrived and there is a typhoon heading up the Japanese coast, 30 knot winds forecast.

For now we’ll sit tight and wait for our opportunity to leave Yokohoma.

Supplies are still being stowed, and Stiv is cooking the first dinner on board, chicken curry with a vegetarian option.

This evening Rodrigo our skipper will brief us on safety gear and procedures, if someone was to go overboard rescue is unlikely, so instead we concentrate on keeping everyone on the right side of the lifeline.

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