Category Archives: Expeditions

Toxic Travellers – en route to a World Heritage Destination

Many of you would have seen the iconic image by Chris Jordan, of the Laysan Albatross chick, decaying full of plastic bottle caps and lighters. Indeed this may have been this image that changed your perception of plastic forever!

But that’s on an Island far far away, right? This couldn’t possibly be happening here in Australia? … well, you might be shocked to hear that  Australia’s very own Flesh-footed Shearwater, or Mutton-bird, may be the seabird most impacted by plastic on this planet..  One fledgling was found with over 275 pieces of plastic inside its body! That’s the equivalent to about 10kg in your belly! These gorgeous birds are under pressure from the impacts of humans, and have declined significantly in the last few decades.

this bird contained less than half as much plastic as the record holder.

As part of our ‘Save our Seabirds Project’ our latest expedition was to the World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island, a volcanic paradise 600km east of mainland Australia. This is the only island on the east coast of Australia where the Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Fleshies) breed, here we have joined renowned naturalist Ian Hutton and Dr Jennifer Lavers, founder of Save Our Shearwaters.



Ian is a wealth of knowledge on the wildlife of the island, curator of the local Lord Howe Island museum, conservationist, and award winning tour guide. Jenn is a powerhouse researcher, passionate about ‘her’ seabirds and marine plastic pollution, and the driving force behind the Two Hands Save Our Seabirds Project.


Lord Howe is truly one of the most beautiful islands in the world, a step back to a slower time, as the residents voted to keep their community free of mobile phones and there isn’t even phones or WIFI in the hotel rooms!  Back to good old pushbikes and leaving sticky-notes at various places! (Too many hills for the trusty old walkie talkies).

 But no moving slow for us, it’s a busy ten days working as Jenn’s field assistants (or ‘her slaves’ as she lovingly calls us…) Yes, it’s a very busy time, here on the island the Fleshies and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters are fledging, leaving their burrows and stretching their wings and flight muscles for the first time in the evenings. But we are here for the birds, and would rest no more without Jenn’s whip cracking.



So for us night-time is spent in the nesting colonies, catching fledglings to assess the effects of plastic ingestion. Some are still very skinny fluff balls, with too much down too survive the ocean, others are quite heavy birds with well-developed feathers. Size and weight are critical to help these fledglings survive their first migration and they all should be ready to go by now!

Early mornings we’re off to comb the beaches for half drowned, shivering birds that didn’t quite get away (we take them into care and feed them fish smoothies until we can release them for a second chance).  Mortalities are high, and these are taken to the lab.

Day time is spent processing samples from the night beforeP1020789TwoHandsProject and necropsying dead birds. Despite the birds ejecting their “bolus” (a mass of indigestible items that are in the chick’s stomach until they fledge) before leaving the colony, we still find plastic inside the dead birds. Even a balloon.

What really threw us, was the sheer amount of plastic bits in the colonies, plastic that could ONLY have been brought here by the shearwaters. Some are simply fragments, others are recognizable items from our everyday lives, even recognizable brands are found! This plastic has been in the ocean, and in many cases has come from our major cities in Australia. Sadly, despite Lord Howe Island being a protected area, marine plastic pollution doesn’t play by the rules. It crosses borders, invades marine parks and is a threat to wildlife everywhere.


Plastic pollu_SST1028_lowTwoHandsProjecttion has many sources and forms, from micro-beads in cosmetics, microfibres released from synthetic clothes each time you do the laundry, to consumer packaging including beverage bottles and caps.

_SST1411_LOWEven industrial plastic pollution is common, nurdles (plastic pellets used in plastic production) building site waste, and discarded fishing gear all pollutes our oceans.  And the birds.

The true solutions lie in designs that prevent plastic pollution from entering the oceans in the first place. Some objects are simply stupid, and should not exist. Plastic balloon ties for example or those sill red-nosed soy-fish from the sushi shop. Others could be effectively reclaimed with a basic refund system initiative.

P1020675_LOWCheekiAs a consumer your first step can be to avoid single use plastic packaging. Start with getting yourself one of our Save Our Seabirds Cheeki water bottle.
And our friends from Plastic Free July  make it easy for you and it is a great way to get started, with a whole community to support you and share ideas on avoiding contributing to the plastic pollution problem.

Give it a go.. as we say around here:  No Excuse For Single Use!

                                                           Paul& Silke



About: THP Web Banner 510px wide_ss_quad_LOWTwo Hands Project often partners with community and scientists across Australia and the globe, studying the extent and impacts of plastic pollution on our marine environments. And now has a High School program cleverly weaved into the National Geography and Science curriculum.

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.


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.



Meeting Roland

When I see the excitement, happiness, disappointment, passion and enthusiasm that people have for sports such as AFL or Footy in Australia- I always wonder just HOW we can get this energy, passion and care of the masses for subjects that actually matter. Such as our ocean, our earth. Our survival.

ECOulladulla__SST1803Today, was one of those days. We did a great Beach clean up, turn out here in Ulladulla was not bad considering the short notice we gave people, a couple of handful passionate people joined us…. Yes, I say ‘not bad’ when it’s a couple of handful of people… looking at the footy: that’s millions! Shouting, cheering, jumping up and down for happiness or pain.. and all in full colours of their favourite club! So why do we get so excited by someone kicking a ball? And yet we struggle to get of the sofa when it comes to looking after the planet that keeps us alive… mind boggling…

But those that got involved were just absolutely amazing people.


This is Roland. He picks up pollution in Ulladulla every day. All day. Just for fun, the environment and to keep him out of ‘mischief’ as he said. And well for the Aluminium cans. He can sell them, for up to 80c a kg! – Everyone here loves him and I recon he’s somehow related to Ben up in the Whitsundays – It’s his mission, it’s his life.

ECOulladulla_ECOulladulla_volunteersTamiaStephThe girls Tamia & Stephanie, saw us on the beach clean up, and asked how it works. Once done they were surprised just how much there was, and decided to go show the people up on the grassy area! Then they asked what else we’re doing in Ulladulla and if they can help. I said checkECOulladulla_ECOulladulla_bottles at home, but I’d love some help with the market stall on Sunday, and sure they came and were fantastic help- I could have not done without them. As thank you we give them some insulated CHEEKI waterbottles

ECOulladulla_Bags1And of course, Angela – what to say, my amazing friend and Volunteer and Eco Artist and Designer. She whipped up an eco art workshop & organised the presentation night – managed to get all venues and everything donated! – This is the Two Hands spirit!

So what happens when an ‘Eco Artist’ is around? It means that all of a sudden we find ourselves scavenging through friends kitchen cupboards… looking for excess Plastic bags , suitable to be CROCHET into a bowl. I decided to make one in the favourite Shearwater colours : blue and white. Crocheting with plastic bags is easy, you just need:

– to have enough bagsECOulladulla_bags3
– know how to make them into one long ribbon
– know how to crochet ( my biggest issue, as  am use to knitting, my strict teacher Angela needs to correct me constantly)
– have a couple of spare hours ( another of my problems..;-)

And in the meantime Angela finished: a bowl, a hat and a bikini… some of these items will be going to an auction to raise funds for Dr. Jennifer Lavers work to ‘Save our Shearwaters’


On the morning of the departure I squeeze in another quick clean up in the rocks ECOulladulla_SilkeCleanYukonLandof the breakwater. It took me less then 10minutes to fill my bucket. With one of the number one items being … plastic lightweight shopping bags – it’s clear once again: there is just No Excuse for Single use. – And in this case we need to ban the bag!

Oh, and as for the daytrips and another tireless volunteer:

Chris, our Ornithologist has not been seen without his binoculars and camera for the entire trip- spotting and ID’ing Seabirds, from Shy to Black-browed Albatross, Wedge-tailed and Hutton’s Shearwaters…White-fronted Terns… Australasian gannets….ECOulladulla__SST1705crop

The daytrips here in Ulladulla followed the trend of  amazing wildlife, dolphin and whales left right and centre… but waaaay too much jellies and algae in our micro plastic trawls….so again we focus on Visual Observation: and Styrofoam is the winner every time! – and also came through some windrows full of plastic bags, baitbags and  packet of chips.


To take part on the East Coast Odyssey during our time in Sydney: CLICK here

Images from Ulladulla Daytrips:

ECOUlladulla_IMGP3246Blog by: Silke Stuckenbrock- co Founder two Hands Project          In 2012, Silke was awarded the Manly  Eco-Award for her pioneering campaigns to stop plastic pollution. Silke is available for workshops on plastic


more jelly, more pollution and a whole heap of Whales

In Eden we say goodbye to Andrew and welcome Melodee to join the crew on board  Yukon.

ECOedenUlladulla_IMGP3650Melodee has spent 12 hours on the road crossed state lines and driven over 1000km to join the East Coast Odyssey expedition.. how cool is that?!

Our last days in Eden see the arrival of two more tall ships, initially the Young Endeavour and the Soren Larson. The locals must have felt they were being invaded by an armada of pirates!

As we depart the Soren Larson, incidentally another Danish built wooden ship, salutes us with three cheers and their dreadlocked engineer leapt into the harbour from the yard arm.


The wind is light so we hoist most of our canvas to make best use of it and set course to the continental shelf.  Sailing is pleasant  and one of our first wildlife encounters is a sunfish, quite a surprise, which took us a little while to identify.

We also had the privilege of witnessing humpback whales feeding, an incredibly rare sight off the east coast of Australia. Humpbacks often use “bubble nets” to corral schools of fish before surfacing through the heaving mass and gulping down their prey.

Chris Sanderson (2)The waters are unseasonably warm, which appears to have promoted algae and sea jelly growth. Unfortunately this is interfering with our ability to trawl for micro plastics,  an ideal trawl is made for an hour duration and yields a good sample, though with this excessive biomass we can’t  trawl for moreChris Sanderson (3) than a few minutes without clogging our net.

To compensate for the less than ideal conditions we ramp up our visual observations, looking out from the deck for visible plastic floating past. This is easier said than done, though all our visual observations bar one have recorded floating plastic, from bottle caps to polystyrene and fragments of plastic bags.

Melodee is having a great time, and proves to have an incredibly keen eye for spotting wildlife. More often than not Melodee spots our animal companions before the more experienced crew.  We get some fantastic whale action, with around 36 whales spotted on one watch.

As we head north the weather forecast suggests that overshooting Ulladulla and dropping back with the weather change is a good strategy, so we set course for Jervis bay.

ECOedenUlladulla_IMGP3681One thing the forecast failed to mention was that the Australian Navy was engaged in exercises… so as we approached we could hear the rhythmic whump, whump, whump of ships guns.  Then, perhaps in a moment of distraction, we decide an anchorage called “Target Bay” would make a good shelter from the weather. Not so.. after some heavy sailing and multiple tacks we make the bay, only to discover the name is quite literal, with a sign on the beach advising to stand off five nautical miles as live firing exercises are in progress. We radio in and sure enough the navy is start to due shelling in 45 minutes!  We hightail it out of there and find a safer anchorage.

After a pleasant night at anchor and a beautiful sunrise over Jervis Bay we motor out and set sail for Ulladulla. Almost straight away we are mobbed by schools of common dolphins, brilliant frolicking off our bow, these animals are so effortless in their movements.

The final run turns into a slow sail and almost a glass out.. the wind is so  low theECOedenUlladulla_Dolphines seabirds are floating on the surface, choosing to drift rather than spend energy keeping aloft in the low wind. Our final observation for the leg yields no plastic, the first negative result we’ve had so far.

Surprisingly one of the last animals we spot are Manta Rays!, They are on collision course for the Yukon’s bow before noticing us, then with a flick of their awesome wings they are gone.. pure magic.

As we make our final approachChris Sanderson (1) into Ulladulla the local Sea Rescue boat comes out to greet us, and we finally spot some floating pollution, a scarlet Coke can floating on the glassy sea. We scoop it up and head in to port, looking forward to running day trips and workshops with the Ulladulla community.

Want to join us on a morning 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.


The Killers of Eden

ECOeden__FLAGSWOW! After hiding for two days in my bunk during our rough Bass Strait crossing (it was so rough no pictures were taken by anyone)

I thought I would be happy to step on dry land! But no, after the stunning  sunrise, near glass out and the ‘mugging’ on our last day, as soon as we get to shore we can’t wait to get out there again.

 We have to be patient, with a day off on shore before the daytrips start. But there is no time to ‘waste’ as within minutes Paul spots a pelican entangled in plastic pollution…As active members of Australian Seabird Rescue we know what to do…but sunset nears and an agonizing wait for the next day begins, hoping the girl will be back and not worse by the morning. By 8am Jenny from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre stands at the wharf with a bucket full of fish scraps to lure in the pelican lady. But the big bird is nowhere to be seen. So we spend the day exploring popular pelican hang outs and distribute posters for the East CoaECOeden_P1020557st Odyssey at the same time – we spot ourselves in the local paper & hear the ABC radio interview David (our Captain) was great, and the first bookings for the daytrips roll in… now we are under pressure to find that pelican ASAP! –

As I start luring in some other pelis at the boat ramp, she joins! – and what a cheeky bird she is and that’s great, she is an easy catch with thECOeden__peli_lowe most preferred method the ‘beak grab’ . The other birds just look on, still hoping for more fish…She’s a fighter but we remove the hook neatly and give her a thorough examination. She’s fine – and we mark her with #24 and release her the same day.

It’s just a fantastic feeling to hold these beautiful birds. I love how soft her fluffy feathers on the back of her head are and every time I am amazed by the beauty and size of her wings (wingspan of the Australian Pelican ranges from 2.3m to 2.8m!) –

Back to the sailing! – ECOeden__SST1587The Coast& waters of Eden are stunning, and we finally manage somECOeden__SST1598e trawls without jellies! – Sadly always some small bits of plastic are present –

Even the day-trippers that came more for the sailing are intrigued & astounded by the findings.

BetweECOeden__SST1620en the trawl and spotting yet another plastic bag we experience breathtaking feeding frenzy with dolphins, seals and all kind of seabirds. It was one of my favourite experiences! –

The dolphins can’t decide whether to continue feeding or ridECOeden_P1020572ing on our bow, this stirred the seal and they come over for a look to see what this Yukon is all about…As we retrieve the bag ECOeden__SST1636fragment, I  wreck my brain for solving this problem sooner than later !

We have partnered with the Discovery Centre  and the Killer Whale Museum for a shore clean up – and the locals are inspired and we have 10 people to join us. The foreshore doesn’t look too bad – but sadly we soon find out that right there at the wharf and break wall , between the rocks, it’s thick of rope and fishing net pieces – that means we only manage to clean about 20m of shoreline! – We later count over 2000 pieces of rope& net! – Amongst the usual: a bucket of flip-flops, take away containers, plastic bags, lots of bottles and cans and much more.

ECOeden__SST1654 ECOeden__SST1657 ECOeden_TwoFOldKillersPaul


While everyone else is gone sailing on the last day, I head up to the Candelo Markets where we raise funds thought the sale of ‘solutions’– not a bad day, I even sell out of Onya-weighs, the clever little re-usable produce bags that ECOeden_StallPauls friend Trish makes, here in Australia! – Also our new Tasmania made organic palm oil, crude and plastic FREE shampoo bars are a winner, with a big thanks to ‘Beauty and theBees’  for the speedy delivery

Images of the East Coast Odyssey in EDEN:


Blog by: Silke Stuckenbrock- co Founder two Hands Project          In 2012, Silke was awarded the Manly  Eco-Award for her pioneering campaigns to stop plastic pollution. Silke is available for workshops on plastic pollution.


Jellies and a mugging


As we left Hobart the ships seabird expert Chris made the bold statement we’d see our first albatross just as we left Storm Bay… it turned out we saw a Shy Albatross even earlier, just before we left the Derwent River.

The Shy Albatross is anything but shy, and has been the most common albatross species we’ve seen on our crossing of Bass Straight.  They are beautiful birds that exhibit a mastery of flight in a way only an albatross can.

Under supervision of Dr. Jennifer Lavers  our mission on this expedition to find seabird foraging areas and survey them for plastic pollution, as well as document the wildlife we encounter.  We’ll be stopping in at communities along the way, running beach clean-ups and giving public presentations on our experiences.

Our first destination is Flinders Island, though unfortunately the weather has other ideas… We hole up under the Freycinet Peninsula dodging  high winds and seas.  Brian’s Corner is a remote though comfortable anchorage, from our vessel we can see plastic pollution on the beach.

After a cosy night wDCIM100GOPROe head north again, the seas are lumpy, the wind unfavourable.  As we approach Flinders Island it becomes obvious we won’t make a landing in time to meet our commitments so we elect to carry on straight to Eden. We later get news the school kid’s will go ahead with their clean up without us, once the weather clears! – We are looking forward to the pictures.

The crossing of Bass Straight was windy and rough, near gale conditions and swells meeting from two directions. Not only does this make for tough sailing, it means we are unable to put our plastic trawl out.

We finally sigECOhobartEden__SST1378ht land after 36 hours and slip into smoother waters in the sECOhobartEden__SST1379helter of the mainland, steadily making our way up towards Eden.  Before making landfall we head out to the continental shelf and deploy our trawl, not a huge haul of plastic, but heaps of salps and sea jellies fill our net.


A visual survey from deck spots polystyrene fragments, packaging foam, balloon fragments and even a scrubbing brush bristle!

On the final approach to the port of Eden we are mugged by humpback whales, they come right up to the rail, spy-hopping and swimming around the ship coming as close as possible without touching us. Even the most hardened seafarers among us can’t hide their excitement at this awesome encounter.


Join the East Coast Odyssey for half day sails on its voyage to Sydney

Image from the trip:


two_hands_logo_new  SOSjenn  yukontourslogo2  wildiaries_logo  NEW LOGO Flinders Council_(RGB) copy

Testing the waters…East Coast Odyssey part 001

East Coast Odyssey   –
The Two Hands Project team have made it to Hobart to join our expedition vessel, the Danish tall ship Yukon, for the East Coast Odyssey. With a little bit of spare time on our hands we have started looking for the ECOhobart__SST1076LOWer‘Colourful Killers ‘ in the hightide line right here in Hobart…and sure enough… all plastic in this picture is from the small 5 square metre area behind me!
We’ll be heading up the East Coast of Australia, negotiating the famed and unpredictable Bass Straight, surveying for plastic pollution along the way.
First up we meet the Nashes, a family of seafarers who restored this old Danish ship and sailed her back to Australia, David Nash will be our Captain on the voyage.
Also on board is Ewan, a young Tassie local who’ll be crewing the Yukon.
The first night on board is spent stowing supplies, reading our plastic trawling equipment and getting settled in.
Sunday will be our first day sail with guests, giving them the opportunity to get a taste for sailing a wooden ship and also help us in our search for “the colourful killers”, the microplastic pollution that is wreaking havoc with our seabirds.
The morning greets us with a bleak wall of cloud, heavy with rain obscuring Mt Wellington, yet our intrepid guests show up in time for our 8am departure.
David starts the Yukons motor and we pull away from Hobart’s Elizabeth Pier, heading out onto the DerweDCIM100GOPROnt River, where the guests pitch in under Chris’ guidance to raise our tannin stained sails.
Despite the foreboding start to the day our four hour cruise on the Derwent River is magical, our fair share of winters sun keeping the rain at bay, and a steady breeze pushing the Yukon’s 60 ton along at a surprising rate.
we take the opportunity to deploy our trawl net for what is officially the first sample of DCIM100GOPROthe expedition and our guests gather around with interest as we bring in the net
Sadly the result is positive for plastic pollution, showing that even this largely pristine corner of the world is impacted by our love affair with plastic.
Join the East Coast Odyssey for half day sails on its voyage to Sydney
Pictures of the day:

Big thank you to  Blackwolf & Vigilante for keeping us warm& and our gear dry with their awesome Jackets & drybags


Land ho!

DAy 26   –  7th July 2012

21N 15.6” 157W 49.9
Finally we’ve sighted land, not the land we originally intended, it’s the peaks of Oahu we can see silhouetted in the clouds.
The prevailing winds and seas were slowing us on our course for Maui and our fuel situation was becoming critical.  After consulting the weather report our skipper Rodrigo made the decision to change course for Oahu. Giving us a more favourable wind angle this has allowed to sight land earlier and with fuel enough to enter the port.

The mood on board has shifted as expedition members anticipate landfall and meeting family and loved ones, or heading off to their next destination. It seems as if tonight we’ll be anchored off the coast ready to head in to the customs dock first thing Sunday morning to clear immigration.

Tracy, Lindsay and Shannon are baking a chocolate cake in celebration. It will be strange cooking on dry land, with kitchens that aren’t heeled over and constantly moving. Today while cooking lunch I had to hold the pots on the stove with brackets, as they kept trying to jump off!

It’s kind of sad that this will be our last night together as crew on the Sea Dragon and the voyage will be over. I am looking forward to being at sea again already, though I am anticipating seeing loved ones and enjoying some fresh food on land.

We have achieved our goals in recovering tsunami wreckage and bought back samples of plastic pollution from parts of the North Pacific not sampled before. We also dodged typhoons and saw some rough weather. Stiv says this was the longest time spent sailing into the wind on any of the 5 Gyres expeditions he’s been on.

Tomorrow Marcus and I will be of to do some beach combing, I’m curious to see if we find anything tsunami related, there shouldn’t be much on Oahu at this point.

Last Trawl- 5Gyres

It really has been cool being a part of this, the 5 Gyres/Algalita  Tsunami Debris Expedition, Thanks again to all those who helped put Two Hands Project and myself on board. Working with a diverse team from around the world has been fantastic and our conversations have given us all a greater understanding of plastic pollution on a global scale.

Getting to know Marcus and Stiv from 5 Gyres has been great, 5 Gyres and Two Hands Project are well aligned on the issue of plastic pollution and I am sure there will be future collaboration.

Well, back to Australia soon, I’ll have some plastic pollution samples to show and a few good stories to share. Anyone up for a cold beverage? I hear the ‘on-shore crew’ has lines up some Murray’s Whale Ale & Monteith’s Cider for the first presentation at the  newly reopened  Manly Sea Life Sanctuary on the 24th July

if you can’t make the 24th or are closer to BONDI on the 25th … please follow the link:
Tsunami Debris Presentation- Bucklers Canteen


toothbrushes in the middle of the ocean

DAy 23   –  4th July 2012

Sea Dragon is now 24N 17” 164W 44” and slowly reaching towards Maui. This last stretch is taking time, beating against the wind and motor-sailing if the wind drops. Our course takes us close to Necker Island, a small rocky outcrop which supports hundreds of frigate birds.

We are looking to arrive five to six days later than schedule (perhaps on the 7th..) and have ceased trawling for plastic after the trawl was found to be acting as a sea anchor and slowing the boat by up to 20%! It is unfortunate to stop sampling, though expedition members have flights to catch and family to meet. I think I may be the only one content to keep sailing, each sunrise is beautiful, the North Pacific rollers forming the perfect foreground for the painted skies.

This expedition has planted the seed for Two Hands Project to sample for plastic at sea offshore around Australia, if you’d be interested in joining such an expedition drop us a line, particularly if you own a seaworthy yacht! ;-)

Last entry I asked for any questions about the expedition, and some great ones have come in, mostly concerning radioactivity from Fukushima.

-Is any of the debris radioactive? We have a Geiger counter on board and have been taking readings from the tsunami debris we’ve recovered, all have been within normal limits (I even took normal readings off my sneakers which I wore while volunteering within the exclusion zone around the reactor …I was kind of disappointed they weren’t a little bit hot;) So far we have not recovered anything our instruments have shown to be above normal radioactivity levels.

-Is the seawater in the North Pacific radioactive? Last year Woods Hole found unusual spikes in the levels of Cesium in the waters off Japan, the 5 Gyres/Algalita Tsunami Debris Expedition has been collecting water samples as a follow up study, we will have to wait on the results from the lab to see whether levels are still elevated.

-How much tsunami debris is out there? This is really hard to quantify, so I won’t even try. It is a substantial amount though. As for the ratio of tsunami debris to plastic pollution in the North Pacific I would be surprised if more than 2% of what is out here is tsunami related. ( Which means there is an enormous amount of  plastic out here!

-What do you miss most while at sea? Fresh fruit and vegetables, good cheese and rye bread. Beer.. That about sums it up. I hope I can find a good beer in Maui.. Next voyage I’d like to do with all the Two Hands Project team on board :)

-Are there really plastic toothbrushes in the middle of the ocean? Yes! We’ve recovered two and spotted more. ( not mine!  I have a Bamboo Toothbrush :-) We’ve also recovered a hair-comb and cotton bud (Q-tip)

Just heard our fuel is down to 550 litres, less than a third of our capacity, so we’ll cut back on the motor sailing for a few days and make way wholly under sail. To me that’s great news, as long as we get to Maui by the 7th, it’s so much nicer sailing rather than motoring.


Trade winds& plastic head on-

2nd July 2012 – 29N21 171E 06

Sea Dragon sails on towards Hawaii… We are now in the trade winds which means we have to tack into the wind, making slow progress. We have around 900 nautical miles to go on a direct line, though the tacking will add much more distance.
Finally some respite from the rain! Laundry has been done, the railing was aflutter with our clothes and foul weather gear, it is almost dry below and the smell has almost gone. (or we have become accustomed)
This expedition certainly hasn’t been a pleasure cruise, as well as having to keep low to avoid the typhoons we’ve had gear failure and heavy sailing, and one of the doco makers has been laid low with seasickness. So much so we almost diverted to Midway Island to put him ashore, fortunately he has responded to a new medication, which allows him to take some food so he has decided to stay on board.
Our water maker has been failing, so now we are limited to salt water showers on deck, as well as salt water for laundry (which means our clothes stay damp, as the salt attracts moistures). Water is not being rationed yet and we should be good for the rest of the trip as long as we aren’t wasteful.

The high speed trawl was destroyed by the swell, so Marcus from 5 Gyres and I sat on deck and improvised a repair, we are now back in action.Sampling for plastics as we sail. We are finding large amounts of microplastic in our samples.

One visual survey, in which we sit on deck for an hour noting the plastic pollution we pass resulted in 64 pieces of large plastic objects and pieces in one hour! This was in a difficult sea state for observation as the true number would be higher. It’s remarkable we can sail for so long without seeing another boat or plane, yet still be constantly sighting plastic in the sea.

Personal highlights thus far are being at the helm of Sea Dragon in 40 knot winds and on another occasion having Sea dragon cruising at 12 knots. Brilliant stuff. Sea Dragon was built for an ocean race circumnavigating the globe, and it is a privilege to get a small taste of what this boat is capable of.