While Ben is swimming we keep a constant watch on him and the dinghy crew, at the same time we are looking at the vast amount of water around us. We see something disgusting; rubbish and debris floating around us, this is not a rare occasion, in fact, it is quite the contrary and near enough constant. If you look hard enough you can spot a piece of rubbish almost every minute. Some days we spot less, others more, yesterday was a particularly bad day. The rubbish you see is in various forms including; whole plastic bottles, styrofoam, fragments of plastic etc.
When I see this I feel really sad, the impact our rubbish has on the rest of the world stretches far further than just the areas of land that we live on. In a way, a lot of the effect we are having on the environment around us is out of sight and thus out of mind. We don’t see it, we don’t necessarily get affected by it directly, this makes it far easier for us to ignore the problem. I feel it is necessary to show everyone what affect we are having on the world around us and the responsibility we have to start taking care of it.
When it is possible, we catch some of the rubbish, and we can see how new life and ecosystems are forming on the plastic. On one side, it is impressive to see how the nature is so resilient, and how the organisms and the life adapt to the change in the environment. But at the same time that new life is growing and adapting to the changes in their habitat, there are many others that are being negatively affected, and I believe that there are many effects that we are not seeing yet.
We are collecting some samples of rubbish to show the kind of pollution that is in the ocean, we record the location, using GPS and take pictures of the rubbish that we can not catch, and we are creating a library of rubbish along the track of the swim.
It is interesting because The Swim is just one line across the Pacific Ocean, a fraction of its entirety, if we are seeing this much rubbish, then imagine the amount that must be in the entire Pacific and our other oceans! Integrated in formal science protocols, our observations will be a valuable source of information to find “accumulation zones” of plastic and have an idea about how the debris is being moved through the ocean.
We need more information to feed the models and studies that are trying to explain what is happening with the debris in the oceans, with more data the models should be more accurate which should lead to a better understanding of the problem. To understand the problem is one step, but most importantly, we have to act together to make a change.
This expedition is an opportunity for that, to show people all around the world the problem that we have created for the oceans and how urgent it is to start fixing it.
We may not be able to clean up the entire mess that we have created so far, however, we can focus our intentions on preventing further polluting our oceans. The roots of the problem, for me, run far deeper than it seems. We need to rethink not only the plastic packages, single use plastic, and our waste and recycle managements. We have to think about our lifestyle, our relationship with nature, our reflex to produce, buy, and quickly waste.
I am sure the attention Ben is getting with his crazy swim is a good opportunity to raise awareness on plastic pollution, and take action together.
About María Amenábar Cristi
23 years old
I am studying environmental engineering, before The Swim I had been working in microplastic research. I was involved in a citizen science program for children, I was collecting garbage sample from beaches, and collaborating in studies about social weelling to change plastic consumption conducts.
I have spent time sailing through the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Patagonia fiords and Cape Horn. I also was part of a sail expedition to Antarctica, where we did sample collection and science logistic. Be part of The Swim is an opportunity for me to join my passion for sailing with my vocation to care about the environment.
During the expedition, I will be coordinating the sampling collection for the protocols that we are following with the science team on land. With The Longest Swim, I hope to spread awareness about caring for the ocean and the urgency to change our behaviour with nature. I want to show to the people around the world the impact of our acts, and try to spread a reflective message about this problem.