Tag Archives: debris

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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

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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.
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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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Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture tsunami cleanup

As our departure date has been put back to 2nd of June some of the expedition team decided to head north towards Fukushima and give some time volunteering at tsunami cleanup.

Furnished with a handy volunteer guide in Japanese, Marcus our expedition leader from 5 Gyres, secured our insurance cards, some safety gear and booked our bus tickets.

Akira from the Japanese broadcaster NHK was invaluable with information and advice, he even came to the rescue when yours truly left his audio recorder on a railway platform and managed to return it before our bus left Yokohoma!

The area most needing assistance is near Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, which until April has been part of the exclusion zone around the failed nuclear reactor.

This area is surreal, like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, devoid of people. Smashed infrastructure, houses and vehicles mark the landscape, reminders of the power of the sea. Mr Suzuki, who helped look after us during the cleanup said the cars with number plates still attached indicated their owners were still unaccounted for.

It is a snapshot of what the Japanese coastline looked like shortly after the tsunami hit, with nature slowly taking over.  Now this area has been opened again the survivors who chose to return  are now slowly rebuilding their homes and cleaning up their properties.

Our arrival at the volunteer center initially caused some confusion amongst the administration who were not set up to cater for international volunteers. Fortunately they were impressed to see we already had our insurance cards and were able to find some English speakers among the Japanese volunteers to help out.We were assigned to clear a drainage ditch around Kazuko Sakaida’s house which just escaped being destroyed by the Tsunami. Kazuko saw the wave approaching, flooding her fields and almost reaching her door.  She has been unable to return here until recently, being kept away due to high radiation levels.
Kazuko bought us snacks and drinks in appreciation of our efforts.

Marcus from 5 Gyres is also an accomplished sculptor, with work in the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago. Kazuko agreed to let him cast her hand as part of an ongoing project on plastic pollution. With bemusement she knelt on her hardwood floor waiting for the cast to set. Kazuko was fascinated with the detail in the resulting positive of her hand.

The Japanese people possess an incredible resilience, this is apparent in the survivors and volunteers still working on rebuilding after the tsunami and nuclear disaster. It was an honour for us to be accepted by these people and to feel their warmth and appreciation . Working side by side with Mr Suzuki and the other Japanese volunteers was a great experience, one I will carry for a long time to come.

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From Sydney to Tokyo

“Your storage space will be in a box next to your bunk, dimensions – 50cm x 40cm x 26cm”

Really? Wow. Trying to minimize my pack list for the month at sea has been a challange. If I wasn’t committed to documenting the voyage I think I could meet the space limitation, though the x220, cameras an audiod recording gear take up more space than my personal supplies!

Tokyo is great, very interesting from a plastic pollution perspective. Vending machines are everywhere! They even dispense beer. What surprised me is every vending machine has it’s own recycling bin. Is this a legal requirement?

This  has an obvious impact on reducing the beverage container pollution in urban areas, though we know Japan has a beverage container pollution problem on the coast.. So where is the local contribution  coming from? I have some ideas on that.. will follow up after some more detective work.

Joining the 5 Gyres/Algalita Marine Research Foundation 2012 Japanese Tsunami Debris Expedition has meant acquiring some new gear, my 4 year old laptop just couldn’t cope anymore. Goodbye trusty friend. The learning curve in new software and gear is a small challenge, have to get up to speed before we sail. Thanks to Lenovo and Adobe for supporting Two Hands Project with gear and imaging software.

While in Tokyo we are staying in “Fight House” a previously abandoned building which housed survivors after the 2011 tsunami, it is now used to house kids visiting Tokyo from the country for sporting events.

Meeting the team has been a blast, we have a diverse crew from as far afield as Switzerland and Brazil! I’ll introduce them in upcoming entries.

Our Japanese hosts have been wonderful, and hosted a party for the expedition team, great food and an abundance of beer.

One of the highlights so far was attending the Symposium on plastic pollution at Tokyo university. Great presentations all round, the science being conducted in Japan on this issue is impressive, and somewhat surprising given the heavy use of plastic packaging here!

Captain Charles Moore of Algalita Marine Research Foundation joined us in Tokyo to present at the symposium. It was great to meet the man who is credited to alerting the world on the existence massive plastic pollution in  the North Pacific Gyre.

Gotta run, Fukushima Prefecture is next.

Paul

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2012 Tsunami Debris Voyage Fundraiser in Manly!

Paul from Two Hands Project has been invited to join Algalita Marine Research Foundation and 5 Gyres on the first scientific survey of the Japanese tsunami Debris field!

To help raise the funds for the journey Murray’s at Manly are hosting an awesome event on May 15th, save the date! Check out the attached flyer.

Wendy Harmer, comedian and editor of The Hoopla will be our MC!

Andrew Lutze from Cunninghams will be Auctioneer  on the evening, auctioning  our brilliant auction items from our supporters! Check them out!

Auction goodies

All our Auction Items are posted for review on the following link, Far too many Awesome things too post here :)

Auction and Raffle Items 

We are still accepting donations of awesome items for an auction on the night, experiences/activities are great, no plastic packaging a must. Pre loved items of value are also encouraged :) email info@twohandsproject.org if you can contribute to the auction pool!

Thanks to the Plastic Ocean Project for our brilliant poster artwork and ART by COWBOY for poster design.

If you are in Sydney we’d love to see you at Murray’s at Manly on the 15th May! Tell all your friends!

You can still support the voyage even if you can’t make the fundraiser by contributing on our crowdfunding page  at indiegogo.com/tsunamisurvey or by clicking the Paypal Donate tab on the right of this page.

 

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