Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Blog 14 From Wednesday, December 8, 2010 -Last Daze at Sea
Last post I quoted from the book, “Adrift.” I have also referenced the book in many of my talks explaining how several people have witnessed plastic accumulating in high-pressure systems as far back as 30 years ago. Steven Callahan, the author, being one of them. I lay in my bunk that night fidgeting around trying to make my back ribs happy when it occurred to me that his raft WAS plastic pollution. Much like the plastic we witnessed in the South Atlantic gyre, Callahan possibly traveled the same fate. He drifted outward from land (where he capsized) and was brought to the center of a vortex via wind and current. According to Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an expert in ocean current modeling, items can remain inside a gyre indefinitely while some of it is slung out and onto island beaches inside gyres and coastlines. That is precisely what happened to Callahan in 1982. It took 76 days for him to travel into the North Atlantic gyre high-pressure system via wind and current. There, he reported seeing miles of trash better than a thousand miles away from any land mass. Lucky for him, he was spit out of the high-pressure system. Sixteen days later he was nearly washed upon a treacherous island shoreline when three fishermen rescued him.
We arrived in Cape Town, Africa at 2am December 9th. My team had the last shift from 10pm – 2am. Most of my clothes were either wet from previous watches, or damp from being down below. The homestretch current we were in runs from the Antarctic up the west coast of Africa. The water only 9 degrees Celsius made the Sea Dragon into a giant humidified cooler. Mike, Mary and I huddled on the bow cold bare feet and hands shivering as the wind howled. Quietly we sat staring into the oppressive fog. Foghorns muffled by its thickness as scenes from the movie “Casablanca” ran through my head. Mike shouted to the captain talking him through the green and red shoreline buoys barely visible until we were only several yards away from them. Slowly, the shoreline lights burned through the grayness as street lights lined up like birthday candles welcomed us - Mary Maxwell’s birthday candles.
With all hands on deck Clive at the helm, we quickly and quietly tucked Sea Dragon into port. Thirty-one days at sea had made sailors out of many of us though my skills lean more toward swabbing the decks. With Sea Dragon backed up to the front of the Two Oceans Aquarium, we all got out to stretch our legs. As we walked toward the aquarium, we couldn’t help but notice the dozen or so large silhouettes on a floating platform. Fur seals accompanied by a large sign illustrating how plastic pollution entangles marine mammals. Kudos to Two Oceans Aquarium for not only providing the platform for the wild seals and educational signage, but for also disentangling many of them. According to the assistant director, they remove plastic fishing gear or packaging straps several times a month.
That night was my last night aboard the Sea Dragon, but there is much more to tell. A very special thanks to Danielle Richardet who besides her Sundance Films documentary found time to post my blog and to Jennifer O'Keefe who has always been there for me whether its jumping rope for funds or collaborating. Love to my ladies!