Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 207 - July 30, 2011

life guard tower 26 - Santa Monica, CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
6.4 pounds collected
782.2 pounds total

As I start up my beach collections after the long hiatus because of our research trip, I am struck by the fact that I have taken all of these pictures before. The Daily Ocean continues to reveal itself to me as the unintentional, layered title that it is. At this point, I have hundreds of photographs from this beach that I have taken of a bottle exactly like this, on exactly the same stretch of sand. 

I'm anxiously awaiting the 6 o'clock hour tonight as I type this post. CBS Nightly News will feature The Daily Ocean in a segment they call, "American Stories." 

I paraphrase, "...ordinary Americans doing something for their communities." I wouldn't have fit myself under that umbrella on my own, but I'm honored that it is a fit. And that Whitney from CBS took the time to do a piece on the beach. My family have already seen in on the East Coast. One reader of this blog after watching the segment left me a kind comment with a reminder in it to carry a glove. 

I do! Trust me. I have a tan, gardening glove that comes with me every time. That's why I take my photographs one handed. Hopefully, you can't tell.

My friend Kitt Doucette from part two of our expedition, wrote a piece in Rolling Stone called, "THE PLASTIC BAG WARS." From the little that I know about this growing issue, he sums it up nicely. Here's a link if you feel like checking it out. 

Sharks are on my mind. Maybe a way I can incorporate the topics ocean related, but not beach trash related that grabbed my attention while we were away, will be to focus on one of those issues at the end of every post.

And so sharks have hit the top of that list. My friend Danielle, who writes the amazing blog about her cigarette and beach litter cleanup in North Carolina called It Starts With Me, reports that there have been a lot of coastal bites off her shores this summer. She says that the bait fish are in close, and so that brings the sharks even closer. Shark bites are often a case of mistaken identity. And when they hit the news, fueling the sensationalized-shark-flames, it saddens me. 

But let's end on a high note here. Whale Sharks will not bite you. They will let you tag along as they gracefully amble through their blue, watery space, opening wide for a meal. 

Here's a profile of them in pictures from a recent YAHOO! article. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 206 - July, 27 2011

life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
10.3 pounds
775.8 pounds total

It's summer! And I'm back to the beach that started it all for me. With a whopping 10.3 pounds of trash collected in just 20 minutes, I'm reminded why I started this crazy project in the first place.

Summer on the beach equals sand toys. And sand toys are the Velveteen Rabbits of their toy genre. Beloved, but then tossed aside and forgotten. For a more updated example, think Toy Story. Although the fate of these little guys, unlike their Tom Hanks counter parts, is a crash course swimming lesson that make take them to distant shores....and possibly other grateful hands....until? 

Meet the modern sand shovel. Many, MANY plastic cups get a second life as a sand scoop, but soon meet the same fate as the above toy. 

As I was picking up trash for the first time since we left in March, I remembered how much I love doing this. I love picking up trash! What a funny proclamation, and it may be stretching the truth. What I love is this:
- feeling useful
- feeling like I may be making a difference by engaging someone strolling the beach in a conversation they didn't expect to have about what I'm doing and why
- taking photographs of the Southern California beach at sunset. The real low point of all of this. Not. 
- thinking about what I want to share with you in my upcoming post as I walk along, paying closer attention to my observations and thoughts than I might normally rushing around in the day to day of it all.

I was off my game a bit. I set my bag aside, got the camera ready, watched a wave come in close to this chapstick, and thought how perfect it would be to get the water in the background. 

NOT remembering that when I have cared more about the shot, than the said object in front of me, and let the incoming tide sweep it away before my shutter clicks, that I feel awful. 

To simplify: I don't want to sacrifice the plastic object getting sucked into the ocean for a nice shot to share with you. Not the point. The point for me is to get the stuff off the beach. There will be other shots. 

Luckily, this little beauty got swept further onto the beach rather than back out with the wave in time for me to remember this lesson. 

I saw my friend Dean down at the beach this morning. I've been body surfing with a new group of friends who are fast feeling like friends I've had for years. Anyway, Dean was part of the inspiration to get my butt back onto the sand. He's been out with me a few times now. 

It's true that I set the rule for myself that my cleanups can be non-consecutive, but the days were clicking by since I updated The Daily Ocean about our research trip, and I still wasn't feeling the inspiration to start back up with my 20 minute collections. 

Perhaps I wasn't ready to come back until now. I needed to digest the experiences we had while we sailed from Chile to Tahiti. My perspective has changed. 

I kept wondering how all of this was going to fit into my beach cleanup project. But one day out here, and I remembered exactly why I spend a fair portion of my time on this project. 

Regardless of the other issues plaguing our ocean that I witnessed, and will surely talk about on here, trash is a huge problem for the beach down the street from me. A stream of mostly plastic debris gets sucked into Santa Monica Bay everyday. 

One insight I gained from getting in the water in remote places while away, was that our sharks need help. Summer always brings sensationalized news of shark bites in the usual places. But we are the real predators. It's hard to wrap our heads around the fact that we are wiping out a highly evolved species that have been around since before the dinosaurs. We are. 

Go check out LANDSHARK SKATEBOARDS to learn more. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our last morning on Mo'orea before we flew home

Garen and I woke up early to see the sun bring these two bays to life on our last full day on Mo'orea Island. It's easy to rise with the birds here. The island comes alive before the heat of the day. Even most of the chores that the rest of the world leaves to sprinkle throughout the hours, are done between 7 and 9 AM in these parts. By ten o'clock, it is clear why. 

We'd been gone for almost two months, and this morning was less than 48 hours before we would be home in Santa Monica after an adventurous, and at times trying, trip. A special goodbye view of our last stop seemed like the way to go.

Cook's Bay is to the right where the marine lab is, and our home for the past two weeks. 

This is Opanohu Bay, where Capt. James Cook actually arrived. 

A little further inland, we headed through the trees before the mosquitoes had their wake up call. 

And came back out into the day to see the vegetation, bays and ocean in a different light. 

We saw plastics, sure, but we also saw a snapshot of the South Pacific Ocean that illuminated the dire need for Fisheries management, weather patterns that were dry and up to six to nine months out of season, not one dolphin until approx. mile 4,999 of a 5,000 mile trip, and the noticeable absence of reef sharks in waters that should have been teeming with them. 

But it is true, that collecting trash off of my local Southern California Beach on a cold day in March, 2009 sparked off a journey that brought me and my husband across an ocean only two years later to discover, and see for ourselves, everything that I mentioned above. 

Garen was in his element. He gained renewed inspiration to work on coral reef research. Something that makes him truly happy. 

After the first dive he went on a dive off of Mo'orea with Jason and Colleen, I asked him when he was going back. He brushed it aside. I thought this was because it was the end of our budget. 
So I asked again. 

He said, "I can't go back. It's all dead. It's just too depressing to see reefs that way." Mo'orea has had severe storms over the last 5 years, although not a drop of rain for six months past their rainy season until we arrived, and they have also suffered from a Crown of Thorns Starfish outbreak. Google these suckers. They have spines 5 inches or more. They crawl across the reefs, devouring all of the corals in sight, with no natural predators. 

Broken, bleached coral remained instead of the colorful habitats that support diverse, and abundant marine life. I can understand why a coral biologist would pass on another viewing.

We  did see some healthy reefs near the airport. Complete with schools of fish so plentiful, you thought you'd entered another world, and you had, when you put on your mask. 

It took me almost two months to the day to cover our two month experience crossing the South Pacific from Chile to Tahiti. I've been reliving the journey by retelling it here on The Daily Ocean, and I'm sad to see that I've come to the end. 

I'll go back to my local beach this week to resume 20 minute cleanups. I expect it will take some time to get my groove back. I wonder where the next 105 days will take me? One thing is for sure, I don't have a clue right now as I sit at my desk on a Sunday night in July. 

I do make a promise though, that I will share the journey with you here on The Daily Ocean. I hope you'll let me know your thoughts, share your insights and continue to encourage me like so many of you have so graciously done. 

One person can accomplish much on their own. But we don't do any of this by ourselves.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mo'orea Island - UC Berkley Marine Lab

It rained for a week straight when we arrived on Mo'orea. Mo'orea in Tahitian means, "Yellow Lizard." I never saw one. Supposedly, a chief had a dream that his people should move to the land with the yellow lizards. Maybe there used to be many crawling across this beautiful place...

I didn't care about the rain. We were three feet from the water, staying in the UC Berkley Marine Lab. Garen had applied to process his samples here and send them home. Being a mad scientist has its perks. Coincidentally, his friend Peter from Cal State Northridge was here with his grad students. Garen had a great time looking at their experiments and "talking shop" with a bunch of coral biologists. Not a bad place to do "research."

The bay that the Marine Lab is on is called "Capt. Cook's Bay" although he never entered this one. He arrived around the corner. 

Looking out at the view of the water, it was hard to imagine that we'd spent roughly 5 weeks at sea. 

Ah, the power of the zoom lens. Across the bay, the cliffs rose through the mist coating the island like a soft blanket. 

This is a clear view of "town" where you can find all of life's modern amenities. And really good chocolate croissants. 

On a clear day, this water is aqua blue, sparkling like you wouldn't believe. But even on a day like this, it's pretty spectacular.

Probably the Bali Hi Hotel...

OK, so I like the shots of the mist. 

And another one. 

And wait, one more. 

Artistic shot of a single yellow leaf. Sorry, I did go to Art School. 

Meet the locals.

This bird is perched on the clothesline outside of our room. 

And this is and tan...and clearly named by a visitor to the center. But maybe not. He is a great guard dog who takes long siestas in the heat of the day, roaming the perimeter with intention at night. 

Iti - one of two kittens that were living there when we arrived. They had been dumped at the lab not long before that. There is one vet on the island and, as you can imagine, it's a hefty sum to spay or neuter your animals. The price of doing veterinarian medicine in the tropics? The bonus of a monopoly? 

This post is dedicated to Iti (little one) who died in the vet's office two nights before we left the island after ingesting mouse poisoning from eating a poisoned mouse. 

Nui (big one...referring to their "big" and "little" personalities) is spayed, and living happily with a local family. We were considering bringing her home ourselves. That would have been pretty nutty. And there are plenty of local cats and dogs who need homes in LA shelters. But these two really stole our hearts.

Berkley - the lab's cat. He took care of the kittens like they were his own. 

It was a gift to stay here, and rest up from our days and nights on the boat before plunging into life back home in Santa Monica. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


TAHITI! I can hardly believe it. Garen and I are about to sail into the port of Papeete after 5,000 plus miles across the South Pacific. As I write this, it doesn't seem real. A distant daydream that was not all that long ago.

We saw plastics strewn across remote islands, plucked buckets and other plastic flotsam out of the remotest waters in the South Pacific, saw a smattering of fish where there should have been hundreds, and corals that were in rough shape. 

We also saw blue-footed booby birds, swam in 13,000 feet of water, more stars than I'll likely ever see in my life, many sunsets and sunrises, strangers faces that became life-long friends, and clear, deep blue Pacific Ocean for as far as the eye could see for thousands of miles. 

There are many aspects of living on the boat that I will not miss. Many of which I have made an attempt to be candid, and hopefully humorous about in my previous posts. 

But the memories I'll carry from sharing my days with friends like Jason and Colleen,

and Jess and Kit will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

Tahiti is truly a sight for sore eyes. But as we get ready to scatter across various islands in this archipelago, I certainly feel like one of the luckiest people on earth. I did this with the help of so many kind hearted people. Most of all, with the love and support of my husband Garen. 

It saddens me to get to this post in our expedition. I do have one or two more land-based adventures to share with you once we get ashore. Thank goodness there's a little more time in our journey. I'm not ready for it to end just yet. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A new sport - Atoll Spotting

Toby keeping an eye out. 

With about one day to go until we get to Tahiti, we decided to explore an atoll or two before arriving. 

An atoll was once an island. A volcanic island. As it sinks, the only remnant of the island is the ring of coral reef that used to surround the it pre-sinking. After the land sinks, the corals keep growing until you are left with a ring of living coral that has formed on the bones of ancient corals.
A typical atoll has a lagoon in the ring of coral where the land used to be. 

Whenever the Sea Dragon sails within close proximity to shore, we have to be very careful that we look with our eyes at what's around as well as check the depth monitor for meters until the bottom. The instruments could fail. There could be something in the water in front of us, etc. 

Dale climbs the mast like the pro he is. 

Through the trees to the right of this photograph live the "others". I'm convinced of it. For all of you LOST fans, you don't have to be dead to find yourself close to the "island".
But seriously, there were small houses with open doors, boats pulled up out front, evidence of people having just been there, and not a person in sight. However, I can guarantee you that they saw us. 
All we got from them was radio silence, literally. 

Clive keeping a look out. 

OK, see this? That dock-like structure in the middle of this photo? Yup. Further evidence of...human activity. I think that this atoll was a French Special Forces training camp. Anyway, we guessed that larger supply ships could tie up to this structure so that smaller skiffs from the islands inside the lagoon could come out to get the goods. We looked for a long time for a way into the sea green lagoon where we all desperately wanted to swim, but found none. This was probably a good thing.

Jess turning the lens on me. Colleen and Jason in the background enjoying the view. 

With storms all around us, and no way into the lagoon, we decided cast off.

These small, gusty systems piled up on the horizon in the exact direction that we needed to go. I was less than pleased. I thought, really? WE ARE ALMOST F&*(^G THERE! DO I HAVE TO GET WET AND SICK ONE LAST TIME! 

Apparently so. A rite of passage before we got to our final destination. 
We'd had pretty good weather, it's true. And I guess some of us had a bloody good time in the rain. 

I however, burst into tears while trying to help Jeff make dinner. I just couldn't take it. 
I was out of juice. Maybe it is because I was so close to being done. 

That old adage about falling apart during the last mile of the race proved true for me. 

Looking back at this picture today, I could feel poorly about not partaking in the fun. And I loved the people I met, but honestly, I still feel like I am glad I'm done without a shred of regret for not having "lived it up" more. 

We all dealt with life on the boat differently. Clive was made for it. Some of us liked the constant movement from place to place. I now know thought that while I am proud that I went, I would never sign up for part 2. 

While my friends are smiling for this shot, I'm thinking, "Could we just f**&g get there already!"