I used to spend a lot of time at sea. These days, I spend more on the shore walking, or in the surf smiling. But sea and beach are intimately linked.
Several years ago and about 300 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, we came upon an unexpected island. From a distance, it reminded me of the sandy-white fringes of a Bahamian atoll. But this was the cold North Atlantic; no islands were charted here, except perhaps Sable Island, but that was many miles beyond our western horizon. As we sailed closer, I could tell it was undulating with the surface of the sea. It started to look like floating snow and ice.
My heart sank to the bottom when we finally got close enough to read the logo: DUNKIN DONUTS. I estimated it was about 75% Styrofoam cups likely swept offshore from New England by the Gulfstream. It was surreal and shameful to sail through an island of floating trash the size of a football field. They’re called “garbage gyres” in the Pacific and we’ve got them in the Atlantic too. No matter where, they are a disgrace to all of us and the planet.
Years later, when I finally made it to Sable Island (it’s hard to get to), I witnessed scenes like this. Many seabirds and other creatures inadvertently ingest or get entangled in the plastics, causing gruesome and largely unseen suffering.
I was uplifted when one of my workshop participants sent me a link to Kevin Cunningham’s project to raise awareness about pelagic trash (thanks Mitch). Please consider supporting him.
I am inspired to help too by encouraging workshop participants to reduce the amount of trash we generate and consume, help clean up your local beach, and bring something “washed ashore” to incorporate into your HWS.