Ulladulla to Sydney and a micro plastic bonanza!

Word has spread about the Danish tall ship sailing up the coast and we enter harbour to the welcome of a crowd of locals on the breakwater.  “Welcome to Ulladulla!” goes the cry and an obliging gentleman catches our lines as the Captain, David brings Yukon alongside.

This trip is a dual mission for me, as well as surveying the East Coast for plastic pollution, I am gathering experiences,  images and scouting locations  for my travelling marine education project “Shark in a Bus”. Having  the brilliant  opportunity to travel up the coast on a wooden sailing ship has allowed insight to the plastic pollution issue and  great wildlife interactions that will bring a local context to the Shark in a Bus exhibition for our upcoming east coast tour. Being a keen marine conservationist one of the coolest things is that I get to scout the east coast with an almost zero carbon footprint!!  Sure beats flying and driving.

As well as some great public engagement events and workshops  from  artist Angela Van Boxtel, Ulladulla is where we say goodbye to Melodee , and welcome Richard, Tania and Imogen our passengers for the leg to Sydney.

Richard is a leading nuclear physicist  with a keen interest in learning more about plastic pollution and it’s interaction with wildlife.

Tania and Imogen are mother and daughter, founders of a great organisation working on plastic pollution, Yeskandoo  they have some great projects in the pipeline so make sure you check them out!

First day out is great sailing, we make some great visual observations, finding plastic each time.

Our plastics trawling is still being hampered by unusually high numbers of sea jellies an algae, a problem that plagues us all the way up to Sydney! There is well documented evidence that rising jellyfish numbers indicate problems with ocean health, so we hope that isn’t the case here.

Second day towards Sydney gets a little lumpy and our new additions are a little less steady on their feet, this doesn’t stop them from getting up and enjoying some great dolphin action and whale sightings. We were invaded by moths and even a pair of Silvereyes that were blown from the mainland!

We overnight in the shelter of Port Hacking and take the opportunity to sample for plastic and do a beach cleanup.. The result? Micro-plastics galore!! It  seems locals walking the beach pick up most of the big stuff, though the beach has a huge amount of micro plastic pollution, from fragments of kids toys to industrial plastic pollution in the form of nurdles (pre-production plastic pellets) The majority of this plastic appears to be coming from the local catchment area, though some pieces have floated in on ocean currents.

Final day sees us running up to Sydney, ducking in to Botany Bay for a quick sample and visual observation. As we are flown over by dozens of jets on approach to Sydney airport we spot polystyrene fragments again and we recover the lid of a take-away container.

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As we pass Bondi  dozens of Shearwaters buzz the Yukon, living up to their name shearing through the air, we see them feeding and can’t help but wonder if they are picking up plastic as they go.

Sailing through Sydney heads is great, the first time most of us have ever entered the city this way, a great contrast to the bustle and chaos of an airport arrival.  We sail towards the Opera House and Harbour Bridge making our first trawl sample in the harbour, returning a positive result with micro-plastics, plastic film and even a drinking straw! (thanks to Neil and the Port Philip EcoCentre for lending us their plastic trawl net, without their support this sampling would not have been possible! When you are in St Kilda be sure to visit them:)

We are greeted by another wooden  ship, the Southern Swan, down by the Sydney Harbour Bridge before we make our way up to Quarantine Station in Manly to disembark and say our goodbyes.

You too can join the Two Hands Project team in Sydney on the Yukon for day trips and even a four day adventure past the continental shelf searching for the Colourful Killers.

Want to join us on an afternoon sail  in Sydney? BOOK HERE

Paul Sharp

Paul Sharp- Founder Two Hands Project –
Paul has worked ‘hands on’ in marine education and shark conservation for over twenty years. Growing up, Paul rescued marine life and seabirds, and noticed the increase in plastic pollution and its impact on wildlife.

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