Today the NOAA and other worldwide ocean guardian organisations are celebrating World Oceans Day. Looking at the websites and FB pages, one message is clear: People Are Rubbish. To put it another way, the global pollution of the oceans is caused solely by humans. The pristine seas and beaches of the world were unsullied until, say, the last 200 years. In 4 or 5 generations, all that has changed irreversibly.
My rather (= very) negative intro is counterbalanced by some more positive news: there are plenty of good guys out there working hard to make a difference to the rising tide of filth polluting the oceans. Clearing seas and beaches of plastic and other debris. Collecting tons and tons of abandoned fishing gear. Rescuing creatures trapped, entangled, injured and engulfed by marine debris and pollutants. Educating adults and – far more importantly – children and young people by actively involving them in their campaigns. Conducting research programmes. Lobbying and protesting. And a lot more besides.
A marine garbage patch: the sea creatures’ view (NOAA)
Abandoned fishing gear: a monk seal that was lucky; and a turtle that wasn’t (NOAA)
Four shearwaters killed by a cone trap. A fifth was rescued (NOAA)
The NOAA and sister organisations carry out massive programmes of clearance of marine debris, with working parties of volunteers who do what they can to deal with an intractable problem.
Elsewhere, some tackle the problems caused by particular types of trash, balloons being an excellent example. I have posted before about BALLOONS BLOW, the brainchild of two sisters who learnt of the serious consequences to wildlife caused by mass balloon releases. Their work has been so effective that increasing numbers of mass releases are being cancelled in favour of other forms of celebration. A minus for balloon-makers of course, but a big plus for wildlife. The BB sisters also keep their own beach clear of the junk brought in on every tide.
And on an individual basis, any old fool can make a tiny difference to a local beach. Here is one such doing just that…
A tangle of balloon strings on Delphi beach
Guinea Schooner Bay: little visited, rarely cleaned. Plastic crap from a 10 foot radius
MAPPING ABACO: READ A NOVEL, TALK RUBBISH OR DISAPPEAR
I am probably the last person to twig the topological significance of Abaco’s location in the world. An email tipping me off about a TV programme led me to investigate further. There turn out to be 3 ways in which Abaco’s position in the Atlantic Ocean is of special interest. Two are geographic fact; and one is located in the grey area between myth and putative evidence-based supposition (if such a nebulous concept exists…). If everyone knew this already, sorry for being so late into the game. But you get some nice maps to look at, gratis, like the wonderful van Keulen map of 1728 above. About the only marked location on Abaco is ‘Hole Rok’ (now ‘GAP ROK’). For a history of Hole-in-the-Wall in historic maps, click HERE
1. THE DISAPPEARING TRICK?
Until the recent email, I hadn’t taken on board that Abaco is within the Bermuda Triangle. The island and its cays are contained snugly into the 60º tip of the western angle of an equilateral triangle based on Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico. The NOAA map below could not be clearer: Abaco is squarely within the triangle, if that is geometrically possible.
I wrestled with whether to write an earnest discourse along the lines “Towards a Greater Understanding of Triangle Phenomenology”. Then I thought, Nah! If it’s a myth, what’s the point in examining its credibility. If it’s all true, I would’t want to worry you more than I already have by mentioning it… So you can do the hard graft if you wish by checking out the links below. Or you can just move on to section 2. Or relax in the sun, go fishing, find some nice birds, or have a Kalik or 3.
THE WIKI ANGLE Excellent potted overview dealing with supposed position, the main ‘unexplained disappearances’, and the possible causes of these – both natural and supernatural. Frankly, this should do it for all but the most persistent, who probably are more widely informed already.
SCIENCE CHANNEL The top ten Bermuda Triangle theories. Note: may not include your own pet theory of aliens from Planet Tharkron with their Pukotic Missile Rays
HISTORY.COMComes complete with spooky-music video presentation. NB blurb nails its colours to the mast by using words like ‘Mythical’ and ‘Fanciful’ so if you are a believer you won’t want to go here, I suspect.
TEN WEIRD FACTSAn informative video for those who want a bit more sensation.
2. WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH
Rowing through the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch (sandiego.surfrider)
Abaco also finds itself at the western edge of the Northern Atlantic Gyre. Strictly speaking the Gyre comprises a combination of four main currents: the Gulf Stream in the west, the North Atlantic Current in the north, the Canary Current in the east, and the Atlantic North Equatorial Current in the south. It is not synonymous with the infamous North Atlantic Garbage Patch, which is contained within the geographical boundaries of the Gyre. The top image gives a broad-brush idea of the central area of concentration of the Garbage Patch within the Gyre. Abaco looks to be well clear of trouble. But don’t be too optimistic.
North Atlantic Garbage Patch (12Degreesoffreedom)
Looking at various sources, there is some variation in the precise boundaries of the Gyre, though Abaco is plainly within it. Q: is it safely beyond the edges of the plastic peril? A: as any resident will know, the naturally pristine beaches tell a tale of constant plastic and other debris brought in on the high tide almost daily. The incidence depends to an extent on weather and wind direction, but the overall picture is of a relentless intrusion of rubbish on golden and white sand expanses. There is an extent to which what the tide giveth, the tide taketh away; and of course many beaches are scrupulously kept clean. NB I’m not trying to propagate anti-visitor publicity – many people will have experienced the same situation elsewhere.
North Atlantic Gyre Garbage Patch (wired.com)
The research map above shows that, although the garbage hotspots and warmspots are well away from Abaco, the ever-widening circulating soup of plastic, rubber and metal has reached the island. Abaco is in the pale blue zone. Yellow is not that far off. Imagine what the orange or red areas must be like. This sort of thing:
In some places the junk stacks up to form islands with hills
Texas has become a standard ‘unit’ for large area comparisons. I notice that several sources describe the main area of the NA Garbage Patch in terms of Texas. But how big is that (BIG!)? To get an idea, I created a map overlaying Texas on an area centred on the Bahamas. So, Texas is this big…
I’ve got more about some very specific rubbish to discuss another time, so I’ll leave you with the most interesting piece of marine debris to wash up on the Delphi Beach, a 12 ft ROCKET FAIRING from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch! Click link for more details.
3. A NOVEL PLACE TO BE?
The Sargasso Sea is named for theSARGASSUMseaweed found in large concentrations in the area. Columbus was the first person to sail right across the Sea, in 1492 (well, he and the crews of his 3 ships Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria). He noted the large areas of seaweed that his expedition’s ships had to plough through. Eventually he made landfall on San Salvador, Bahamas.
This fine Krümmel map from 1891 shows the extent of the sea, and you’ll see that its western fringes reach the ocean side of Abaco. Have you seen the seaweed pictured below the map? That’s Sargassum.
Sargasso See Map – Krummel -1891
A close-up of Sargassum – maybe it washes up on a beach near you…
EIGHT FACTS ABOUT THE SARGASSO SEA TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS
Jean Rhys’s famous 1966 novel ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ is actually set in Jamaica (nb the Sea is mentioned!)
The Sargasso is the only ‘Sea’ to have no land boundary, being entirely in the Atlantic Ocean
It is vital to mass migrations of eels, where they lay their eggs
Young loggerhead turtles are believed to head for the Sea for seaweed protection while they grow
Much of the debris trapped in the NA Garbage Patch is in the Sargasso, and is non-biodegradable plastic
The Sea is protected by Commission established in 2014 involving at present 5 countries, including (unbelievably) Monaco, the second smallest country in the world at 0.75 sq miles. Green Turtle Cay is about twice the area!
Cultural references include the track “Wide Sargasso Sea” on Stevie Nick’s “In Your Dreams” (2011)
There are loads of other literary & musical references but I lost the will to pursue them when I saw the inclusion of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’
If you want to find out more about Jean Rhys’s novel, read it or clickHERE
While writing this post I have had a song thrumming annoyingly inside my head. It’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’, with its coyly rhyming ‘look at it from my angle’. Now it’ll be inside your head too! I couldn’t remember who it sang it. Rupert Holmes? No, that was the egregious “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” (1979). Ah yes. Barry Manilow. Bazza Mazza. The Bazzman. As you’ve finished with the maps etc, here’s a musical memory with a counterbalance of the Stevie Nicks song mentioned earlier…
Those cover the Triangle and the Sargasso; what of the Garbage? Try some Fresh Garbage from Spirit…
OPTIONAL MUSICAL NOTES Randy California’s fingerpicked intro to ‘TAURUS‘ is remarkably similar to the later, far more famous guitar work of Jimmy Page’s intro to ‘STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN‘. And Spirit happened to tour with the early Led Zep. Legal action was commenced last year for copyright infringement, as yet unresolved… You be the Judge!
Credits: As credited above; open source; NOAA; mail.colonial; telegraph.co.uk; Sandy Walker;Bogdan Giușcă, Youtube self-credited; Wiki; Random Researches and Magpie Map & Fact pickings
Our waterways are littered with stuff that doesn’t belong in them. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, fishing nets, sunken vessels, glass bottles, abandoned crab traps…the list is endless. Some of this marine debris comes from human activity at sea, and some of it makes its way into our waterways from land.
While we know that marine debris is bad for the environment, harms wildlife, and threatens human health and navigation, there is much we don’t know. How much marine debris is in our environment? How long does it last? How harmful is it to natural resources or human health and safety? How long does it take to break down in the water? The NOAA Marine Debris Program is finding answers to these questions.
1. It doesn’t stay put
While a lot of debris sinks, much also floats. Once this marine debris enters the ocean, it moves via oceanic currents and atmospheric winds. Factors that affect currents and winds (for example, El Niño and seasonal changes) also affect the movement of marine debris in the ocean. Debris is often carried far from its origin, which makes it difficult to determine exactly where an item came from.
2. It comes in many forms
Marine debris comes in many forms, ranging from small plastic cigarette butts to 4,000-pound derelict fishing nets. Plastic bags, glass, metal, Styrofoam, tires, derelict fishing gear, and abandoned vessels are all examples of debris that often ends up in our waterways.
3. It’s your problem, too
Marine debris is a problem for all of us. It affects everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales.
4. NOAA is fighting this problem
The NOAA Marine Debris Program works in the U.S. and around the world to research, reduce, and prevent debris in our oceans and coastal waterways. Much of this work is done in partnership with other agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, industry, and private businesses.TheMarine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act, signed into law in 2006, formally created the Marine Debris Program. The Act directs NOAA to map, identify, measure impacts of, remove, and prevent marine debris.
5. Some debris is being turned into energy
Abandoned and lost fishing gear is a big problem. It entangles and kills marine life and is a hazard to navigation. Based on a model program in Hawaii, the Fishing for Energy program was formed in 2008 to tackle this problem with creative new ideas. The program is a partnership between NOAA, Covanta Energy Corporation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Schnitzer Steel.This program offers the fishing community a no-cost way to dispose of old or derelict fishing gear. Once removed from the environment, the gear is transported to the nearest Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility. About one ton of derelict nets creates enough electricity to power one home for 25 days!
6. Marine debris can hurt or kill animals
Marine debris may be mistaken by some animals for food or eaten accidently. Often, larger items like nets, fishing line, and abandoned crab pots snare or trap animals. Entanglement can lead to injury, illness, suffocation, starvation, and even death. NOAA is working with many partners to tackle this problem by reducing and preventing marine debris in our oceans and waterways.
7. There’s a lot to learn about this problem
We know that marine debris is a big problem, but there’s much we need to learn. NOAA funds projects across the country and works with scientists and experts around the globe to better understand how marine debris moves, where it comes from, and how it affects the environment. This knowledge will help us find better ways to tackle the problem.
8. You can help us get the word out!
The NOAA Marine Debris Program offers a heap of creative products to get the word out about marine debris. Looking for brochures, posters, fact sheets, or guidebooks? We’ve got those. Like videos? We’ve got those, too. We even have a blog! You’ll find it all online.
9. This is a global problem.
Marine debris is a global problem that requires global solutions. NOAA experts work with scientists and organizations around the world to share lessons learned, discover what programs work best, and map out future strategies to fight this problem.
10. Small steps lead to big results
Fighting the marine debris problem begins at home.
– Try to cut back on the amount of trash you produce.
– Opt for reusable items instead of single-use products.
– Recycle as much of your trash as you can.
– Join local efforts to pick up trash.
– Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and storm drains free of trash—they can empty into our oceans and waterways.
Click to link
Minorly adapted from an NOAA article, with added illustrative NOAA images
FLOTSAM, JETSAM, YELLOW PLASTIC DUCKS… AND DUCKZILLA!
Is one allowed a little light “fun” (toxic concept) around Christmas time? I think one is. If it is strictly controlled and vaguely relevant to the usual issues dealt with around here. Or can be shoehorned into some apposite theme… I very recently posted about the Delphi Club beach and its 2012BEAD INVASION I cross-referred to my section calledBOOKCOMBING, specifically a selection of book reviews concerningFLOTSAM & JETSAMand general beach debris. One book, well-known by now, is called MOBY DUCK (see what the author did there? Anyone would be pleased to come up with that). It is cumbrously subtitled “The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea, and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, including the Author, who went in search of Them”. They were washed overboard in a container some years back, and have been dispersed by current, tide, wind and storm to all corners of the globe.
No sooner had I “published” the post (a posh way of saying “clicked on the blue button”), than an article appeared in the Guardian newspaper, replete with photos, that made me laugh. Quite immoderately. So here is the gallery of Duckzilla being towed up the River Thames in London past (or under) various iconic landmarks. Is this relevant? Apart from it being an avian-based fatuous yellow duck on saline water, not really. Is it fun? Well, you be the judge, but I bet you a Kalik that you crack at least a small smile…
1. “A team of eight people spent more than 800 hours cutting and welding together parts for a giant duck to ensure it was airtight and didn’t sink (could duck tape have helped?).”
2. “The giant duck, towering 50ft high and weighing in at half a tonne, prepares to float up the River Thames from Canary Wharf [business centre] in east London” towards central London.
3. “The giant-size quacker passes under Tower Bridge … but only just. The madcap paddle-past was part of the launch for a new £250,000 bursary funding quack ideas aimed at making Britons laugh…” [RH note: thus confirming at one stroke what other nations think about the British, including in Europe. Especially in Europe…]
4. The duck, having ducked under the bridge, continues upriver, still smiling serenely
5. “Duckzilla floats past the Tower of London [dating from 1087] to the amazement of tourists”
6. “All hands on duck! The giant duck passes HMS Belfast – shame it couldn’t raise a wing in salute…”Photo credits and blame for the captions (mostly): The Guardian
Gore Vidal, once taken to task by a critic for “meretricious” writing, responded “Meretricious to You , and a Happy New Year”. On which literary note I will be taking a break for some quality family-based feasting and entertainment, followed by fasting and a long snooze. I probably won’t add any posts until after January 1st (unless a Kirtland’s Warbler on Abaco is reported!). Thanks to everyone who kindly called in at Rolling Harbour during 2012 – see you in 2013.
RH cheerfully prepares to blank on the Delphi Club Beach. Ambition – 10; Equipment – 10; Skill – 1
A MISCELLANY OF BOOKS MORE OR LESS RELEVANT TO ABACO LIFE
These are not books I have read myself. They are books that may be of interest to readers of this sort of blog. Islandy. Beachy. Mariney. A whiff of wildlife. They will be collected together under the BOOKS ETC menu as the series expands. If one of them catches your eye, then check online for reviews, reader ratings and prices. If I get round to one or more of them I will add my own views, but I am still gradually working through wildlife books that I have already paid for…
1. FLOTSAM, JETSAM & OCEAN DEBRIS
Flotsametrics and and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession With Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science
by Curtis Ebbesmeyer & Eric Scigliano
“Curtis Ebbesmeyer has made important discoveries about everything from currents to the huge floating garbage patches in the ocean to how life was first spread on earth and how the Vikings settled Iceland. In the tradition of John McPhee’s bestselling books on scientists who both study and try to protect the natural world, The Floating World offers a fascinating look at the creativity and energy of a most unusual man—as well as offering an amazing look at what currents have meant for the world and especially mankind through the centuries. Hardcover; PP: 288; Illustration: 10-15 images throughout” Smithsonian Store
Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam
by Skye Moody
“The ocean gives up many prizes, just setting them on our beaches for us to find. From rubber ducks that started out somewhere in Indonesia to land Venice Beach, to an intact refrigerator makes it way to the Jersey Shore. Chunks of beeswax found on the Oregon coast are the packing remnants of 18th century Spanish gold. Author Skye Moody walks the coast, dons her wet suit, and heads out to sea to understand the excellent debris that accrues along the tideline. There she finds advanced military technology applied to locating buried Rolexes, hardcore competitive beachcombing conventions, and isolated beach communities whose residents are like flotsam congregated at the slightest obstacle on the coastline. This book confirms that the world is a mysterious place and that treasure is out there to be found”(Publisher’s Fluff)
Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion
by Lorree Griffen Burns
“Tracking Trash is the story of Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who studies the movement of ocean currents. Dr. Ebbesmeyer’s work has attracted attention because he has received much of his information from studying trash. It all began when his mother heard about sneakers that were washing up on a beach after a cargo ship lost one of its containers. Since then, he has tracked sneakers, Lego’s, and even rubber duckies that have been accidentally spilled at sea and made their way to shore. By understanding how ocean currents move, scientists hope to solve many problems such as fish shortages and animals being caught in fishing nets. This book was very enjoyable to read and easy to understand. The pictures were large and engaging. The author did a great job at making it feel like a story while at the same time giving a lot of scientific information”(Satisfied Amazon Punter)
Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools who wen in search of them…
I have just spotted that this book is about to be reprinted and, I imagine, updated at the end of February, so I am adding it to the collection. I note in passing that it is published by Penguin…
One 5* review on Amazon UK sets the scene: “This is a book that follows the journey of plastic ducks, turtles, frogs and beavers after the container they are in falls overboard and breaks open on impact with the sea. Moby Duck is fact that reads as good as fiction. The Author doesn’t only traverse the world of escapee plastic toys but meanders his way through a factory in China that makes bath toys, gets on a ship that is on research mission even though he has a fear of open water and even ends in Alaska where the first plastic duck was found. This is a great read, for anyone who likes a quirky book that tells a true story with wit, charm and gentle humour. Moby Dick is never far away in this book, only he has been transformed into Moby Duck…”
Amazon.com has 42 reviews, averaging a disappoining 3.5*. Some are ecstatic, some lukewarm, few can resist the golden opportunity proffered by the author to be “puntastic”. I like the one titled “An Eclectic Tale, but Caught in Its Own Eddy in the End”. Maybe that is the most astute summary of all.