My day off! But there is no day off, not when your home is also your floating office/lab/swim support vessel and media centre. In a boat tightly packed to be a one stop shop every bit of space is essential. With the best of intentions we’re only human and forgetting to download the inventory sheet has meant some creative kitchen recipes (I’m sure we will all delight when we find 60 cans of mushrooms in the last week). This particular mornings treasure hunt led to me waking to the sound of rummaging below my bed and Yoav asking ‘where’s the porridge’. The obvious response to which is ‘cupboard door on the floor to the left of the cooker, put your hand in go up then take a 90 degree left and go 2 ft back’. I was stirring anyway, so no sleep lost.
At midday whilst sitting on deck Josh caught sight of a laundry basket floating past the port side of the boat, the pole hook was given a hopeful joust in its direction but to no avail. The basket was quickly disappearing off the stern so we adopted our MOB drill with David becoming a point man. The next 10 minutes saw Yoav leading us through a series of heave to’s and tacks. Why make a song and a dance out of a laundry basket? Each item of debris we find can be catalogued under the life on debris protocol. The protocol, therefore the finding of such a sizeable everyday object is an opportunity not to be wasted. We rounded the basket a few times before I decided that it might be quicker should we deploy the surf board.
My idea of paddling out to the laundry basket unfortunately hadn’t included the mental image of me clad in a bright orange life jacket, an item all surf stores will soon be selling like hot cakes. The collection of data and content comes with some interesting choices, with our swimmer Ben and support dingy already out and myself and another about to go over board, how much crew is too much crew in the water? In the middle of an ocean we went from one man over board to three men overboard. Luminescent orange quickly goes from fashionable to lifesaving.
Instant disorientation occurred as the rolling waves and swell engulfed myself and Josh with our only point of reference the boat disappearing behind us. I paddled the worn out 9ft Malibu in the last direction I’d seen the basket before jumping in. Luckily with the slight elevation provided from the board I spotted it as it crested a roll of swell 20 meters ahead. Quickly upon it I was able to guide Josh in. Sitting aloft the board in the middle of the pacific I had a moment to reflect just how crazy a scenario this must look had you no context (or even had you) to our mission. Josh circled the basket taking numerous shots both from above and below, whilst I held the basket above the board for a closer look.
Each piece of debris we find is home to a large array of species both large and small. These drifting homes wander the ocean currents, collecting larvae and eggs as they go. The shadow it casts creates an oasis of safety to smaller fish. On every object we’ve found there have been all host of creatures great and small. I’m no longer surprised to find crabs, barnacles, reef fish, pelagic fish species and all manner of critters unknown to me. Unwittingly many of us never expect or perceive that one day our plastic household items and single-use packaging becoming ‘finding Dory’s’ floating home from home.
Holding it aloft you’re faced with a conundrum; remove the basket and leave the ocean cleaner but kill the multitude of life that call it home or leave their new home alone. Our way of life seems to be dictated by consumption, and as negative as the metaphor may appear I can’t help but compare our actions against the earth to that of a cancer ravaging the body. In a world where success is measured by how much you can produce theres a bleak future for generations ahead when little to no thought is given to a products life after its reached the end of its useful lifecycle. In the process of producing we destroy and nature adapts repurposing your old laundry basket to its new life as a floating ark. Unfortunately that basket will eventually break into a million smaller pieces that then ultimately appear in our food chain.
28°05 N / 152°14 W
Adam – Medic / Photographer
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Photo credits @joshmunoz, @sea.marshall