Day 26 S/V Kaisei: What Kind of People are Changing our World?

30 08 2009

Saturday, 29 August 2009
Lat: 38° 01’ N Lon: 123° 25’ W

Karen Hawes, deckhand, ship’s “medic” and blogger extraordinaire:

People make waste, no matter how ecologically forward-thinking they may be; it is a fact of life. What kinds of waste we make, how much of it we generate, and what we do with it is the issue. Like others, I am in search of ideas and possible solutions.

This year, I am traveling from Alaska to Argentina, “exploring waste, from coast to coast.” Having been born in Alaska, forty years ago, I felt it an appropriate place to start. After having traveled around the world as a skydiver, traveling through a variety of cultures was my chosen platform for this trip; I wanted to find out how people from different places view and handle their waste. So, I decided to do what has already been done before – by many people before me but with my own twist – to travel, from the top to the bottom of the Americas, asking questions along the way.

This tactic, if one could even consider it one, has lead me from riding in a garbage truck in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to crewing on a square-rigged brigantine in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Did I mention that my trip has only just begun? There is much more yet to come.

On board the tall ship Kaisei, I am volunteering as part of a 25-member crew, in search of “the place where forgotten things go.” Things that people forgot to tie down, to put away, to secure in place – on deck or on land – ending up in the wind and the waterways, which flow to the ocean. There is no curbside service to gather up the debris brought out to the oceans’ gyres around the globe. The efforts of those on board are to study what the effect of our forgotten goods has on the marine environment, as well as possible methods of removing it.

By the time we make it back on land, it will have been four weeks. This is the first time I’ve been out to sea and on a square-rigged ship. I wouldn’t consider myself a seasoned sailor; I have the basic training and boating experience one gets while living in the Bay Area. On deck, it became a small goal of mine to make it to the topgallant yard; it’s not the highest point on the ship, but it’s the second highest – and you’re hanging out at the end of a metal beam to boot. I did it, once, and I’m happy to say that it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it to be. Like skydiving, it’s the imagination that’s always the scariest part. Riding out swells and bow surges, while peering down onto the deck below – while trying to heave up the sail and lock it in – was more tiring than anything; I would have preferred my first time aloft to have been in a harbor, truth be told. I will leave the Kaisei with a newly-found respect for those who make the seas their home and their office. Meanwhile, however, I will be continuing my travels south, mainly by land.

I spent hours aloft counting plastic pieces floating by and was alarmed by their number, mile after mile, within easy sight. Ben Franklin had it right – small acts by many people out-weigh great efforts by few people. My goal is to get as many people to make small changes, in order to make a greater difference in our shared world.




One response

30 08 2009
Corinne Podger

Hi, I’m a producer with ABC Radio Australia in Melbourne. If you folks happen to have a phone on board with roaming mobile, we’d be delighted to have a chat to you about the trip and how it’s going. We go to air at 5-7am AEST (Cook Islands 9-11am previous day, San Francisco 12-12pm previous day).

Drop me a line at the above email if you’re likely to be on a phone tomorrow (Monday) between 12-2pm, or any day this week at that time. And a number to reach you on.

best wishes,
Corinne Podger

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