Outdoor Philosophy

Harnessing the power of adventure to inspire environmental action

Category: Gyre2Gaia

Gyre to Gaia – Ocean Plastic Sailing Voyage

From the UK to the Azores to the Canary Islands in 2014, Gyre to Gaia was a unique journey on board Pangaea Exploration’s yacht Sea Dragon. With a mixed crew of scientists, artists and activists our aims were to explore a range of questions about the impacts of plastic pollution on the marine environment in general and on zooplankton in particular – do plankton ingest microplastics? And if so, what are the consequences – as well as to use the voyage to raise awareness and inspire action. While the scientists trawled the waves for plastic and plankton, artists Studio Swine built their stunning, solar-powered ‘Golden Machine’ transforming waste plastic into things of use and beauty.

We all debated possible underlying deep roots of our multiple environmental challenges in good Outdoor Philosophy fashion.  Why do we consume so much plastic in the first place? What understanding of humans’ relationship to nature encourages us to treat the oceans as a dump? And of course, we talked solutions. From awareness raising to redesign to legislation to local activism such as Plastic Free July – now in 69 countries – we need interventions at all level of the plastic system. Research on microplastics is ongoing at the University of Exeter, Biosciences Department. Further info and tales from the high seas in the blogs below…

Adios

Lanzarote, on the horizon for hours as a question mark – cloud or land? – came into focus as an extended sprawl of volcanic hills. A fantastically arid landscape, all browns and tans like the dried pelt of a brindled creature, a stark contrast to the lush greens of the Azores. Clusters of white buildings…

Studio swine and the golden machine

Anticipation has been building for days now as component parts of Studio Swine’s machine are handed up through the fore-deck hatch for assembly – and then passed back down again as Petr Krejci the film-maker, strapped in at bizarre angles on the constantly shifting deck, takes and retakes each shot. Studio Swine, aka Super Wide…

Ocean friendly design

Yesterday, after the daily trawl for plankton and plastic, we sat in hot sunshine brainstorming. We’ve been heading steadily south east, back into summer, and by late afternoon, the deck is almost too hot to walk on barefoot. The topic of our brainstorm: how could we change the design principles that shape plastics and plastic…

Plankton Poo

Yesterday, Stephanie Wright, Sea Dragon’s resident leg 1 scientist, gave a great talk at the University of the Azores’ Oceanography Department, a gracious white building on the hillside above Horta. It’s a former hospital and there’s still a medical feel to the place, lingering amongst the modern lab facilities and marine life posters. I introduced…

Transitions

Saturday morning we stepped off Sea Dragon and onto a solid jetty, the first land underfoot for well over a week. It swayed alarmingly – despite being made of concrete. We’d arrived at Horta marina the previous evening, too late to clear customs, and stayed on the boat. That night, by now so used to…

Horizons

I’ve never experienced such contrasting ones! During several humbling days of sea-sickness, my horizons shrank to perhaps the narrowest ever; the uniquely vile sensation of overwhelming nausea and the proximity of the nearest bucket. Out on the joyful far-side of sickness, our horizons are immense. 360 degrees of sea and sky. Day after day, out…

Cruising

Am hunched over laptop in brilliant sunshine on the aft deck of the Sea Dragon. The plastic/plankton trawls for the scientific work have been lowered into the choppy sea and there’s a brief lull while they scoop their findings from the dark waves before we haul them up again. The 12 of us on board…

Brilliant

Brilliant. That’s the word in mind today. The combination of people, skills, professions, interests and passions on board – marine scientists, photographers, film-makers, plastic pollution activists and campaigners, commercial project managers, conservationists, philosophers, generally interested folk and, of course, sailors. With luck and a fair wind, bringing these perspectives to bear on the horrible challenge…