As you know, I will be heading out later this week to start my eXXpedition journey. I wanted to share what my experience will be similar to before I go since you will not hear a lot from me until I return.
Our crew will only be able to send about a blog per day with a limit on size, which mean little to no photos until we reach land. With that said, I want to share the film available on http://www.exxpedition.com from last year’s Atlantic trip so that you get a feel for the journey ahead.
Here it is: https://vimeo.com/130924498 or find it here: http://exxpedition.com/film/
In addition to the film, you can also read blogs from the eXXpedition Ascension crew that have been posted since they set sail from off the coast of Africa several weeks ago. Those blog posts are here: www.exxpedtion.com
To track Sea Dragon with hourly position updates – see this link: http://tracking.redportglobal.com/anonymous/panexplore
For other info about the project, see www.exxpedition.com.
You can also follow blogs from eXXpedition by following the Plastic Ocean Project blog site.
I want to wish everyone a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season!
Traveling Light for eXXpedition
My father, the smartest man I know, always tells me to get out there and do everything I ever wanted to do before it is too late. “Live your dreams”, he says, “and explore”. The over thinker in me always plans ahead, but the older I get, the more I am ready on a whim to get out there without worrying about what to bring. Traveling light is essential for being able do what comes your way at the drop of a hat. When the wind blows in the right direction, who knows what will come your way.
With that said, it’s just smart to prepare in advance for a trip like eXXpedition Amazon, but it is also smart to keep it simple and not pack too much in order to keep from getting bogged down from doing awesome things. For a long trip with many destinations, I try to keep it to one medium waterproof duffle and one small waterproof backpack. This also keeps me from having to check any luggage at the airport, which saves precious time and money that could be better spent on adventures. It is basically nothing more than I can handle and haul all day without feeling like a pack horse.
When I was invited to join the Amazon crew for eXXpedition (www.exxpedition.com) I knew I would be writing a travel blog post about packing and traveling light. Packing light is not something that has come easy for me since I am as Type A, planner crazy person, as it gets. Yes, in the past I’d pack the kitchen sink if I could, but I am getting over it and it has made all the difference. The freedom of traveling light is something that I am really get used to. The more I practice minimalizing what I travel with, the less and less I pack, but I am still learning and the struggle is real to balance “being prepared for anything” and keeping the space limited to what I can physically carry with ease and comfort.
Let’s start with electronics. I don’t typically travel with a lot of electronics, because I spend most of my time on a beach or underwater. When I travel for business, which has been a lot lately, I usually just rely on my iphone for emails and my ipad for everything else. If I am speaking at a conference or symposium, I generally bring a flash drive with my presentation on it and leave the laptop at work – just depends.
For eXXpedition, I need a few more gadgets than I would normally. I am packing a Kindle Fire HD for tracking marine debris at sea using the Marine Debris Tracker App. I’ve also downloaded a few good reads to the Kindle so that I am not packing paper books which can really weigh you down when traveling light. I still enjoy a paper book, because of the physical page turning. When I have space, I will usually pack one book and then trade or stop in at a thrift or used book store while away if I need another.
I am packing an iPod that I have had since the dawn of time that is filled with all my fav music including some original songs by the hubs. I am also bringing a rechargeable headlamp for night shifts aboard sea dragon (http://panexplore.com/about-us/sea-dragon-vessel-capability/).
I store my headlamp in a scuba mask case along with my mask and charging cord for the headlamp. This way it doesn’t get crushed and saves space by adding a two-in-one function for the case.
My Go-Pro Hero4 is essential for capturing underwater adventures, documenting cleanups, and getting cool video footage of the trip for my blog. I always put my go pro along with extra memory cards, an extra battery, and the charging cord in a small pelican case that is crush and waterproof.
My Mac Book Pro is something that I hardly ever travel with, but will this trip in order to stay in touch via Skype on land before we set sail, edit video while at sea, and record data from the research. I use an external hard drive to back up all my larger vid files so I don’t get all bogged down and slower than molasses.
I use a neoprene padded case and an REI dry bag (25l) for my computer. It is super light. They come in lots of sizes too.
Packing cubes are one of the best things that has every happened to this OCD packer. They keep my clothes, by type, separate and easy to find. I hate spending precious time figuring out what to wear, so I like to keep it simple. One cube for shorts/pants/a dress, one for tanks/shirts, one for undies, and one for bathing suits. These little dandies are also super light and breathable. Literally the cubes you see here in the photo are all the clothes that I am packing. It takes up about 1/5 or less of the space I am using in my duffle.
Traveling light means wash wear and repeat. I pack all black bottoms and mix colors for tops to keep it easy to pair – no muss, no fuss.
I adore Lululemon products for travel. My go-tos and must-haves for travel are almost all Lululemon products. They make a wide variety of quick-dry, non-stink, lightweight, and comfortable fabrics and styles. My go-to “packing light” wardrobe consists of:
Bottoms – I choose all black bottoms for traveling light (worth repeating). Keeps it simple to choose, I can spill coffee all over and it won’t matter (we all know that never happens when you only have 3 outfits for 30+ days), and goes with any top. The Lululemon Tracker Short is a MUST for travel!! These are amazingly light, they are quickdry (less than an hr in the sun), super stretchy, and super comfy.
The Lululemon Pace Rival Crop is also a travel must have. They are perfect for a morning run, but also multi-task as yoga pants, pajama pants, a layer for warmth, and everything in between. I love these quick-dry fabric legging style crops for warm climates. These even have a mesh panel for extra breatheabilty in the legs. I prefer the Lululemon Wunder Unders for cooler/cold climates. You can layer these crops with pretty much anything. If I was going somewhere cooler, I would probably layer the Pace Rival Crops under my one wash-wear-repeat pair of jeans and save the space in my bag, but since I am traveling to a hot climate this time I am not even bringing jeans. These crops are so comfy for air travel and I highly recommend getting in an impromptu airport yoga session in-between flights – even if it means doing some basic seated asanas. Your body will love you for it later when you’re cramped in a tiny seat for hours on end in the same position.
If you are not sure of the fit or fabric, check with your local Lululemon store manager or crew. They did a fitting session for me and it made all the difference in the pieces that I chose for this trip. I’ve been on their R&D program for years and I am still constantly amazed at the new fabrics, multi-uses for pieces, and modern designs that cover all the bases.
Tops – I like to bring shirts or tanks from sponsors if I am traveling for research like with eXXpedition so that I can show my love for those that support the project. I also like to bring something I can trade like a shirt from an event or organization that I support and want to spread the word about. My go-to traveling light staple is the Lululemon Swiftly Tech Tank. These tanks are a must for tropical climates and can be layered with the swiftly tech long sleeve shirt if you are going from colder climates to warmer climates. They wick sweat away like magic, they are super lightweight so you can bring a few, and they come in great colors that change availability each season.
For eXXpedition, I am packing 2 Lululemon Swiftly Tech Tanks, a Lululemon Squad Tank, a Lululemon Swift Tech long sleeve shirt for the flight and cool nights, the Lululemon Water Sun Runner long sleeve, which is basically a very flattering rash guard and sun protector. All of these items roll up into a tiny space and pack neatly in a small cube. I also packed a Carolina Recycling Association Shirt to show some love on my journey for those that have supported the trip, and I am packing a Project AWARE and an Earth and Surf Fest tank to trade. I am layering on the plane a Lululemon Dance Studio hoodie jacket and a scarf over my Lululemon free to be wild bra and Lululemon Swiftly longsleeve shirt. I am also packing one lightweight little black dress (LBD). It is the Horny Toad / Toad and Co. Rosemarie Dress that is lightweight, dries quickly, packs like a dream, and I got it at a thrift store a year ago for $4.00. It is one of my favs for travel and more. I wear it all the time. I can dress it up with a cute summer or winter scarf, add some fab Lululemon leggings in the winter with a cardigan, or wear it plan for a hot summer day over the Lululemon Free to Be and it keeps me super cool and comfy. I have even worn it to work with a blazer and then thrown it over a swimsuit later in the day after work for a beach trip. The “Rosemarie” is a super functional dress and a rad thrift store score.
Undies – I adore the Lululemon Light As Air undies. They are quick dry and lighter than a feather. Find them here: Lululemon Light As Air. They take up less space than a quarter – seriously. They also show no lines and feel like you are going commando… Best undies EVER!
Bras and Swim – I cannot express how much I love Lululemon Sports Bras!!! They are the only bra I wear. They also make beautiful and functional swim tops that you can surf, swim, SUP, and dive in without worry of any wardrobe malfunctions. The Lululemon Free to Be and Lululemon Free to Be Wild are my all time favs for swim tops and bras – I pack one of each in black and an extra Free to Be Wild in White.
Shoes – I am packing the Adidas Climacool shoes since most of my time on this trip will be at sea. They are awesome non-marking boat shoes that are leather-free and have these awesome drain holes in the bottom that keep you dry. They are super comfy and you can wear them all day without rubbing the back of your heal to death. These are a must if you are on a boat or in a really humid climate. I just throw them in a Lululemon shoe bag that is amazingly lightweight and keeps me organized and my shoes separate from other gear in case there is any funk from the road. These handy Lululemon shoe bags come with most Lululemon bags. I have a few fav Lululemon bags including the Arabesque bag from 2011 that I use all winter every winter and the Summer Lovin’ Tote that I use all summer. They are always coming out with a new bag or two each season that is always highly functional and features the most creative and unique concepts that keep me surprised every time. Sorry, I must sound like a Lulu commercial, but being on the R&D program has given me the opportunity to try and review their new products over the years and they really are rad. The quality keeps me coming back and the customer service is unbeatable. If you are in NC, head to the North Hills/Raleigh store and say hi to Sam for me. She is amazing at making sure you have the right size and fit and can pair stuff together that will give you all the feels.
If you are a woman, which we all are at eXXpedition, the Diva Cup or any other reusable menstrual cup is an essential for reducing waste and traveling light. This reusable medical grade silicone cup is not only better for the environment by cutting out the disposal of single-use plastic applicators and tampons, but it also saves you money. My Diva Cup cost me $19.99 on sale via Thrive Market. Even if you purchase one at their regular price of $40, you still end up saving around $168/year or more by not having to buy tampons. In ten years that adds up to $1,680 – $40 = $1,670. That’s travel money!!! This also takes up very little space (much less than a box of tampons) in your travel bag, comes with a small cloth drawstring bag, and is super discrete.
To-Go-Ware is a MUST for any traveler or anyone in general. I even used mine today while eating at a restaurant that normally gives out plastic utensils. They are made out of bamboo and easy to use, rinse, and reuse. I keep them in my every-day-bag and use them on the regular too. They are especially handy for travel. I add a bamboo straw to my kit and I am ready to go. Single-use plastic utensils are bad for everyone involved. Learn more here: Plastic Problem and learn what we are working on to help here: eXXpedition: the Science and then choose to reuse.
For all my bathroom needs, I use a super light-weight toiletry bag. I adore the Sea to Summit Traveling Light Toiletry Bag. It is the lightest toiletry bag I have ever had. It comes with a few zipped breathable sections to stow items and it has a removable break-proof mirror as well. It also has a hanger to hang it on the shower rod or towel rack.
Inside the toiletry bag I have fluoride-free, all-natural, cruelty-free toothpaste in a medium size container (I will be gone for a month – go smaller if you can and refill it when you come home for next time) and a bamboo, completely biodegradable toothbrush. Keeping with the all-natural theme I use Crystal deodorant, Arnica homeopathic cream for bruises and achy muscles, and Alba sunscreen. I keep a small refillable silicone container of organic coconut oil for leave-in-conditioner and body lotion too. I like the herbal amor for keeping the mosquitoes off, and a vial of homeopathic ear solution for drying out my ears after diving. I pack a small reusable/refillable razor that comes with a case and an extra blade in the case. I stash some goodies powder for headaches and keep a random supply of meds for the “just in case” situation. I will also stash a small container of patchouli or sandalwood essential oil to remind me of home (yes, my house smells like hippie).
I packed a tiny bar of burt’s bees rosemary soap that someone gave me as a gift back before the company was bought out and I figure this would be the perfect opp to use it since it has plastic-free packaging and could come in handy dandy for washing my face in between all the flight layovers. I also keep a Lululemon Quick Dry Towel (small) in my carry-on too for face washing at airports.
I am underwater obsessed so I have to pack to dive. With that said, I will be limited on space. I have not yet decided to bring or not to bring my full dive gear, but at the very least I will be packing a pair of fins (tropical for this trip – no booties necessary), my favorite mask (ScubaPro), a small but powerful LED light (Big Blue), a wetsuit (my fav is Body Glove – warm water diving in Recife and Tobago so I will bring my 4/3 full suit or my 2m shortie for this trip), and for the underwater cleanups I will bring a Project AWARE dive against debris bag and at least one or two lift bags that I scored from the Kuwait Dive Team recently. My dive computer is my watch (ScubaPro Meridian) so no extra packing for that.
I am a vegan. What does this mean for travel? – Not much. It just means that I get to try out a lot of local veggies and fruits. It also means that I am used to traveling with snacks at all times just in case, which is a good habit for any traveler no matter whether you are a veghead or not. My staple travel bring-with-me-everywhere goodies are PB2 and nutritional yeast, among’st nuts and dried fruit (trail mix) type snack items. The containers that the PB2 and nutritional yeast come in also make handy containers, when empty, to protect stuff like sunglasses, electronics and cords, or something cool from the journey. PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that is easy to mix and eat by itself or spread on something yummy like bread or veggies or fruit. I also like to bring nutritional yeast because it is yummy to sprinkle on veghead food and it packs a vegan form of b12. For the plane, I like to munching on Earth Balance PB popps. They are a delight.
The Cocoon Travel Pillow and Mummy Liner are little slices of heaven to have as travel companions. The pillow is awesome for the plane, but also I am thinking it will be handy dandy as an extra pillow for the sleeping quarters aboard Sea Dragon. It is light and squishes down into a small bag. The Mummy Liner CoolMax is just an added layer of awesome for any destination. It is basically a liner for a sleeping bag, but I like to use it to cover up and take a nap at the airport during a layover, extra protection from any sketchy hostel or hotel situation, or just a snuggly blanket to keep you covered on the plane, etc. It is so soft, lightweight and perfect for warmer climates, hence the “CoolMax” edition.
Buff makes AMAZING products! I adore their headbands and use them for all kinds of things including a bandeau bra, mask for when you are walking dusty streets or doing a waste-audit at a landfill (yep, it’s what I do at times), scarf that wicks sweat away, etc, etc…, and did I mention that it is a headband?! Check out their website for all the uses. Buff USA products
Buff USA really styled me out for my trip and sent me two headbands, an organic scarf that I wear almost everyday, and a pair of gloves. The headbands are great because traveling light means finding products with multiple functions. The scarf is also multi-use and the gloves are going to be perfect for sailing (no rope burn for me), picking up trash along the beach, and the gripped palms will work fabulously as scrubbers for washing clothes I think.
I like to pack some extra stretchy cords for tying things to my bag. They come in super handy for other uses too. Growing up with an awesome Dad and also being a Girl Scout always taught me to be prepared for anything and these little dandies take up very little space, weigh nothing, and you just never know what kind of uses you can find for these…
Entertainment is not super necessary for this trip since most of the day will be spent on scientific research and the night will be resting when possible, swapping stories with crew, occasionally keeping watch, sailing, and recording data. Still it is nice to pack some items of entertainment especially for the ADD traveler (me).
I am packing my shark cards that a very dear friend of mine got me for my bday last year. I smell poker night – I raise you two sea shells and a pistachio. I am also packing a mini made-from-reclaimed-materials watercolor set that my super rad sister made for me. The watercolor paint set, including brushes, all packs into an old mint tin. She also styled me out with a pack of blank paint-able postcards that I plan to share with the crew so that we can all paint a postcard and mail it out when we get to Guyana. The iPod and Kindle, mentioned before, will come in handy when needed for a little down time.
I also like to pack at least a couple of pictures of my peps when I go long distance. I have a travel photo album that weighs less than an empty file folder and packs like a dream. It holds 6 photos of my favs.
Another must have for anyone traveling light is a quick dry towel. I purchased one last year at Olympus Dive Center. It literally dries in less than 15 minutes and packs down into the size of a card envelope. Lululemon has a really great quick dry towel as well that can also be used as a yoga mat or yoga mat towel for your hot yoga sessions.
I pack all my gear in the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag. I LOVE this bag! It is waterproof and has a hard protective back on it that is great for keeping your gear safe. The padded removable adjustable shoulder straps that let you wear it as a backpack are the most comfortable of any bag I have every owned. I have it in the 60 and 90L. I use the 90L for when I am traveling with my full dive gear set up and I use the 60L when I am traveling super light and this is perfect for a carry on. I also love the haul loops and the external pocket for random easy to get to stuffs like a plane ticket. It also has padded grab handles on each side. It is environmentally safe, weatherproof, and water resistant. I adore the D style opening that allows you to see everything when you unzip. It has a nice strong zipper and I love, love, love the daisy chains to latch gear to the sides. It packs all my essentials and gear all neatly and safely and I expect these bags to last a lifetime. Check them out here: Patagonia Black Hole Bags – videos of the bags and more info.
I also clip some reusable bags like the Dakine tote that also acts as my shopping bag or walking around bag. I also clip my refillable 5Gyres Klean Kanteen water bottle, coffee container, and a refillable steal mug to the sides via the daisy chains and keep a few extra carabiners on hand as well.
I am also packing a pair of bamboo sunglasses for this trip. These are lightweight, float, and come with a handy bamboo case that I also use to stash my pencil and sharpener.
For more on packing light for eXXpedition, check out the packing video coming soon to Coastinista.com. Traveling light means more freedom to get out there and see which way the wind blows today.
Blue Skies, Calm Seas, and Safe Travels,
eXXpedition Gratitude and Enlightenment
Thank you so much to the awesome group of people who have generously contributed to my eXXpedition research fund so far:
Vic, Barbara, and Luna Smith, Carolina Recycling Association, Sonoco Recycling, Wes Rider, Amber Parker, Starr Watson, Jim Ries and One More Generation, Keary Cunningham and Drew Smith and Neptune and Nutmeg Candles, Bonnie Monteleone and Plastic Ocean Project, Benjamin LeRoy, Laura Curtis, Ginger Taylor. Buff products, Lululemon of North Hills Raleigh, Wilmington Yoga Center, Rebecca Rider-Yopp, Amy Poe,
Rocco Possemato, Mike Dunn, Beth Montgomery, and Molly Matlock!
I am so grateful for your support and cannot wait to share the journey and outcome from this project!
When I started asking for support for this research trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what to say. I was not even sure I was going to start a funding site, but was encouraged to do so. This project hits really close to home since marine debris, plastic pollution prevention, and resource management is something that has shaped my life and career path. It is not easy to ask for money, even to fund a project like this one and especially from friends. For me, it is mostly due to fear of being let down by those I am closest to. This feeling comes only natural and if you ask anyone who has started or been involved in a non-profit or research project, chances are they will tell you the same. I have to remind myself that there are so many worthwhile projects out there and not everyone is as passionate about the ocean and the environment as I am.
When I was asked to join the crew for eXXpedition Amazon, I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was (am). A feeling of overwhelming inspiration and gratitude just consumed me. I feel like all the roads in my life have lead me here and to what I am doing now, not just eXXpedition of course, but almost everything that is going on in my life right now is happening because of where I grew up, the volunteer work I did throughout the years, the knowledge I have gained in my job for over 11 years, the many side projects, connections and collaborations along the way, and volunteer hours spent supporting other groups over many years. It is mostly the people I met along the way that inspired me to do more and delve deeper, quite literally deeper since my recent underwater obsession with scuba diving.
I’ve had a couple of people recently ask me if eXXpedition is part of my job. It is not part of my position in local government, but it is part of my duty as the person that I am. We don’t always get paid for what we are supposed to be doing in our lives and sometimes it takes money and resources to make it happen. With that said, I feel like I will be paid for the work on eXXpedition in the same way I was paid for volunteering and cleaning up beaches for NC Big Sweep and the Ocean Conservancy for over 25 years. Payment comes in the feeling you get when you are doing something you feel is necessary for your heart and soul (and for me, the planet), something not completely selfless, but not entirely selfish either.
Volunteering to make the world a better place most certainly counts as work. No matter if you are feeding hungry children, picking up trash on the beach, or giving care to orphaned wildlife, it’s feel good work, but still work. I find that the volunteer work I do with regards to marine debris is not only time consuming and physical work, but also it’s extremely emotional. Like many of you, I grew up on the water. I’ve lived on the coast my entire life and it hurts me to see what is happening to our marine ecosystems.
For this volunteer research eXXpedition, I will be taking almost an entire month of leave time from my job with local government (all approved and encouraged). Working over 11 years in a job that offers me vacation leave has afforded me the time off and by doing the eXXpedition project in December, it has also helped me avoid any important meetings, grant deadlines, and job related projects. While others are on vacation, spending time with family, and shopping for the holidays, I will be at sea collecting plastics. This all basically adds up to 32 days gone, 20 days I am taking off work (plus holidays and weekends), and that comes to 160 hrs of vacation time used (don’t gasp, I’ve been in the same job for over 11 years – I have a lot of leave time on the books).
The airline travel cost is exactly $1,056.00, which includes flights from Raleigh to Recife and in order to get a super discounted rate, I will be traveling for two days and taking four flights to get there. The total airfare costs also include a flight from Guyana to Trinidad and then Trinidad back to Raleigh via a connection in New Jersey – again, cheap flights sometimes mean strange and a few connecting flights with long, at times, layovers. Other expenses include my visa for Brazil, which including processing fees came to $250.00. My room and board before we set sail and after I get back off the boat comes to approximately $600, which includes hotel/hostel stays for 8 nights while in Brazil and Guyana, food, and transportation to solid waste facilities where I will be studying infrastructure, doing waste-audits, and meeting with officials and local groups. At sea, I have costs related to sail, vessel, and equipment maintenance, insurance, research station supplies and scientific equipment, port services and fees, professional crew, fuel, food, and communication expenses totaling $6,148.61 for the 20+ days at sea. This amount also includes other research related expenses as part of the full eXXpedition program. This makes a grand total (not including gear) of $8,054.61. UPDATED 9-20-15 – I have raised $4,700 in donations and $1,000 worth of travel gear sponsors so far, which is a great start and although I will be paid up by the end of August, I will still plug away for donations until I leave or until I reach my goal.
Some might ask, why? Why take that much time off work to do work that you’re not getting paid for and why spend that much money to study solid waste issues and plastics in the ocean? The reasons are very obvious to me, but let me share why they might be of interest to you.
Litter and pollution, marine debris, and improper disposal are the material manifestation of consumer behaviors worldwide and are not just an environmental issue. We don’t see the end result of failing to dispose of a plastic container properly, using single-use items on a daily basis and having them magically disappear for us at the curb, or that bag that blows away in the wind. Yet millions of tons of plastic pollution are washing through our streams and rivers, ending up eventually in huge gyres of plastic debris circulating in the world’s oceans. See the official 5gyres website (www.5gyres.com) for a full picture of the contamination. Scientists are even finding plastic pollution in the polar ice caps! At present, the ocean’s litter and plastic problem is increasing at the same rate as population growth and further.
The problem, although also environmental, is that improper disposal, litter, and pollution have negative impacts on our health and economy. That’s right, this involves your business’s bottom line and your wallet! Let’s say you own a surf shop or paddleboard company – do you think folks will rent or purchase equipment from you if the nearby beach is too polluted to swim in? How about your fish tackle shop or seafood business – do you think people are going to shop for tackle when there are no more fish to catch or eat your seafood if it is contaminated with plastic? The answer, my friend, cousin, and neighbor, is no. Just like the first law of ecology, so thus the laws of the economy, and that is everything is connected to everything. When one business looses money, we all do. Those taxes paid by that business that is loosing money also pays for your teacher’s salary, your fire department, police, and rescue services too. We are all more connected than most stop to consider.
No matter where the initial pollution comes from (it’s worldwide) the resulting outcome spreads and has an impact where you live too! Yes, your mother, daughter, grandchild, grandparents, future generations to come, and you are already feeling the impact! Do you know someone that is or has battled cancer? We all do! All of us!
The link between plastic pollution and cancer is not new information, yet we continue to make single-use products out of the same materials without slowing down, we are actually speeding up consumption at an unsustainable rate. According to the Center for Disease Control we are expected to see 19.3 million new cancer cases diagnosed each year. Americans continue to use 35-50 BILLION plastic water bottles a year! That’s just water bottles, not including other beverages and products. A dear friend of mine and a world renown environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, Dr. Jenna Jambeck, has found through her research that somewhere between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010. Find our more about this here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768. The connections here are undeniable.
As part of this eXXpedition project we will be using the latest tools in citizen science using mobile and geolocation technologies to participate in global experiments to influence global change through collective research and documentary films. “eXXpedition” tackles a little talked about topic in a completely new/different way and hopes to create conversations that enable the general public to participate and use the gained knowledge to make informed consumer choices that have an impact on us all. We know that successful innovation rarely comes from within an industry – it takes outsiders tackling problems in fresh ways with a mix of disciplines to create solutions – like voting with your wallet to support companies making such sustainable innovations and not supporting companies that are making the problem worse. The power is in the consumer – that’s you!
Policymakers, politicians and the public remain largely unaware of the extent of the plastics problem and the magnitude of the threat to marine ecosystems and your own community environment. Plastics do not biodegrade on land or in water, instead becoming brittle in sunlight, photo-degrading, and breaking apart into ever-smaller bits of plastic, still containing toxic substances introduced during the manufacturing process. These plastics act like sponges for other toxins, leading to the bio-accumulation of toxins in the food chain – your food chain! Many of these chemicals are linked to disease and are found contaminating our bodies through food and consumer products. Plastic debris also threatens marine and terrestrial wildlife through entanglement or by clogging their digestive tracts.
By studying solid waste infrastructure on land we can see how effective or not these programs are at preventing litter, marine debris, and capturing materials to be reused, re-marketed, or properly disposed of. We also see what programs are effective and strive to work with officials to expand these programs and work on improving them as well. By doing landfill and trash audits, we see what the main consumer products are in an area. We can then use this info to tract trends and target producers and consumers with potential and proven solutions.
As part of this eXXpedition, I will also be studying what I find on the bottom of the ocean while conducting underwater cleanups while in Brazil and Guyana. This is a part of a two-part study being done on accumulation rates and also chemical absorption studies. I will also be using the Project AWARE method of surveying underwater areas and collecting data for their international database. While at sea, I will be part of a crew conducing surface sampling using manta trawls to collect plastics, including micro-plastics, while sailing from Recife, Brazil to Georgetown, Guyana. This research is in conjunction with the University of Georgia and the Marine Debris Tracker App data collection among others.
So now that you know more than you probably want to about eXXpedition, plastic ocean pollution, and my research projects, I will end with a note of thanks and gratitude for your support both monetarily and morally. In return, I will support your local business on my blog site (www.coastinista.com) with advertising and blog mentions and articles.
I appreciate every dollar donated and every high-five and good vibe sent my way along this journey. I also ask that you help me spread the word about marine debris, litter, pollution prevention, plastic-use reduction, and eXXpedition.
Thank you for supporting eXXpedition and my journey to “make the unseen seen”! Not one, but all. Together is better!
Con mucho amor,
A recent development is that I am affiliated with the Plastic Ocean Project (POP inc. – a 501c3 non-profit organization) which has offered to except donations on my behalf which assures that your donation is tax deductible. For more information on tax deductible donations, please email RidTheSeaOfMarineDebris@gmail.com. Other donations can be made on the go-fund-me site listed on the side bar of this blog site.
Shark Sunday: Flashback to Florida in 2014
Yay for Independence and Shark Videos!! #SharkySunday
Sharky Sunday: Ripley’s Aquarium
Back in March of this year (2015), I had the pleasure to dive at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
I was in town for the Carolina Recycling Association Conference for the week and having been diving as a volunteer at the aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores, NC, I decided to give the Myrtle Beach aquarium a ring and see if they had any diving opportunities and they were very accommodating.
The staff were super friendly and the sea creatures were amazing. Here is a video of my dive:
Sharky Sunday: Diving at Shark Canyon
Here is a video of my dive at Shark Canyon in October 2014:
Reef Sharks, Hawksbill Sea Turtles, and Eels – Oh my…
Blue Heron Bridge
The Blue Heron Bridge, also known as Phil Foster Park, has to be one of my fav shore dive sites. It is located in Riviera Beach, Florida. It features an “Underwater Snorkeling Trail” that is perfect for non-divers and the diving there is spectacular considering the max depth is around 15ft. The area is full of marine life including seahorses, octopus, pipefish, sea robins, batfish, flying guards, stargazers, and nudibranchs of over 100 different species.
One of the cool things about this site is easy access. Grab your gear, check the tides, and head out. You want to dive this site at a slack tide for the best conditions. The current can get very strong under the bridges and can pull you right into the boat channel quickly in between slack tides.
There are some small wrecks toward the Singer Island side near the east bridge and an underwater shopping cart graveyard of sorts amongst other notable sites.
There are also showers, a bath house, plenty of parking, and a lifeguard stand under the bridge as well.
I have had the opportunity to dive this site several times during a few trips to Florida and I always see some new creatures. I also always find debris to remove coming from roadside litter and boating debris washing over from other areas and also coming from folks tossing items over the bridge. It can be a bit frustrating, but also motivating so I always bring my trusty Project AWARE dive agains debris bag.
For underwater cleanups, I like to make sure the dive shop that I rent my tanks from have recycling stations. This way if the location I am cleaning up does not have recycling, I can drop debris when I drop my tank.
Tricks to an underwater cleanup include:
1. Bringing a mesh bag (Project AWARE also has great mesh bags and also bio bags for underwater cleanups),
2. Bring a knife to cut line (I’ve recently been an entanglement victim and it is not fun, but with a knife is not as scary as it sounds),
3. Focus on non-biodegradable items such as plastics, if you pickup glass bottles make sure there are no creatures living in or on them – if so leave it – glass is just silca (sand) – it’ll be okay right where it is,
4. Stay buoyant – don’t let your bag drag the ocean floor – you could damage reef, etc.,
5. Finish the dive when you cannot keep buoyant with the bag,
6. Have fun – don’t just focus on trash, check out the wildlife – that’s what diving is all about,
7. Report your findings using the Marine Debris Tracker App and Project AWARE- be sure to track as close to the site as possible – if you are on a boat – track before you leave the site, if you are at a shore dive – track at the shoreline – Think Surface Interval Fun!
8. Tell the local dive shop about your findings. This is super important. If there is a large amount of debris that you couldn’t get to, they might be encouraged to do their own underwater cleanup event with a larger crew. Be sure to tell them about Project AWARE, although I am sure they will already know since you did your research on eco-friendly and conservation conscience dive shops,
9. Blog about it, share pics and stories on FB, Twitter, and other social media outlets to encourage others.
10. Report your photos and data with the North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium (NCMDS) folks (even if it is out of State) here by emailing RidTheSeaOfMarineDebris@gmail.com and use the Marine Debris Tracker App if you are doing shoreline cleanups.
UnderwaterObsessed: Diving the Mc Allister Wreck
Diving off Fort Lauderdale at the Donald McAllister Wreck in October 2014
Sharky Sunday out at the Caribsea
The wreck of the Caribsea has to be one of my favorite places to dive mostly due to the large community of sand tiger sharks. These magnificent creatures don’t mind sharing their home with a few divers and I adore spending time with them.
Sand tiger sharks will occasionally come to the surface and gulp air. I’ve mostly witnessed this while volunteering at the Pine Knoll Shores aquarium and it’s pretty cool. As it turns out, they store air in their stomachs and this plays a role in how they can float nearly motionless in the water while staying fairly close to the bottom. Divers would call this good buoyancy and others might just say it is a good trait since they appear to be very lazy. It might also be a pretty sneaky way to wait for prey.
The sand tiger shark is listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Specifies and is also a candidate species for the U.S. Endangered Species list. This is due to a couple of reasons, in some parts of the world, these sharks are in serious decline due to over-fishing, the shark fin industry, and commercial fishing methods, and also they have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all sharks (according to http://www.auduboninstitute.org), but here in North Carolina we have what seems to be a really strong population that is thriving.
Here is a short video of my dive this past SharkySunday:
Want to learn more about these super rad dudes in grey? I encourage you to take the PADI Project AWARE Shark Conservation class at Olympus Dive Center and then book a charter for some shark diving or head on out to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for an up-close and personal (from behind the glass) view.