Monday, March 19, 2012

Hanging out at the Beach

Most people think of going to the beach to enjoy some R and R.  But I haven't stopped yet.  Here are some beach sampling photos.  These samples attempt to quantify how much plastic is found in the rack line on beaches. This day I was sampling Silia Beach.  The first photo is of the rack line where debris has been washed in, both natural debris (seaweed, sticks, and leaves) and man-made materials.  Some of the plastics are in whole pieces like the bottle cap, others are broken pieces of plastics and torn polystyrene.  I take  two samples, one with a visibly high concentration of plastics and another that appears to have none.  I do a series of these and then average out the plastics by weight and the distance of the beach front sampled.  It serves as baseline data to compare with future samples.

It's important that we understand how plastic is entering our oceans so we can someday figure out how to stop it.  Most of us would assume it comes from cruise ships, cargo ships, and recreational boaters. Though that is part of it, what we are finding is that it comes from land locked areas as well as what people leave on the beach.

Plastics that end up on the ground can eventually be blown or washed into storm drains and waterways then flushed out to sea.  Some of it washes back up on beaches, others head to the open ocean where there is plenty of sunlight to make it brittle, eventually breaking up into smaller pieces.  Think of the millions of tiny pieces one plastic bottle can become. We find these types of fragments in our open surface sampler and we find them on beaches, especially island beaches.  When I am taking beach samples inevitably, someone will come over and ask me what I am doing.  On this day it was two Fijian children 6-7 years old.  They were inquisitive and giggly as I showed them what I found and explained why it is a problem.  The hope is they will start questioning why plastic is on their beach especially when they use so little plastic compared to what the modern world is using.  

This is a village that still drinks from coconuts and the main food is fish they catch and crops they can grow evidenced by the generous meal the Selia Village put on for us.  Here is Michael Pitts (sorry for the bad shot Michael) drinking from a coconut one each prepared for our crew.  We sat on the floor having dinner in their community hall with the local leaders.  Notice the walls lined with fabric and ornamentation that is symbolic to their culture.   

Below is one of the fishing outriggers they still use today.  The night we left I watched a man getting ready to go fishing in this outrigger.  He lit an oil lamp then gently pushed off into the darkening waters.  It was only 6:30pm.  I was surprised to learn that because we are so close to the equator, the days do not get longer and shorter like it does back home when the seasons change.  It only varies by minutes.  I wonder if it has anything to do with the even temperament of the people that live here.   


  1. Dear Bonnie,

    So good to read your adventures and see someone like you out there making a real difference... I admire your work and your kind nature and spirit... Enjoy your trip and good luck to you Bonnie, Eef from peaceful protest against litter - Belgium (Europe)

  2. Hello Bonnie,
    Out of great respect for your work, I have passed on a “Liester Award” to you. See the link for an explanation of what this means.

    Wishing you continued great success,
    Water Blogged.

  3. Thank you so much. I'm so sorry see this response sooner as I am honored by your appreciation and recognition.

    Respect to my fellow ocean blogger.