Consider them both, the sea and the land

Some of us have had the good fortunate to have made passages under sail in the blue water of the deep oceans.  Out there, with neither mechanical nor electrical noise pollution, the local wildlife comes to call.

One dark night watch in the North Atlantic in 1970, alone on deck with the rest of the crew asleep below, I was spooked by slow, rhythmic ‘heavy breathing’ a hundred yards or so away on our port quarter.  As dawn broke, these long deep breaths about a minute apart proved to be those of an orca, the killer whale, enjoying the company of our gently creaking hull.

On another day in Davis Strait, we sailed in broad daylight in convoy with a pod of maybe a dozen Bowhead whales, known to the whalers of old, for darkly obvious reasons, as the Greenland Right Whale. For more than an hour, we were welcomed as part of their pod and they joined us on our northward course.  I felt that we were uniquely honoured by their attention, though I clearly recall our relief when they finally left us and headed west again. The reason, quite simply, was that the rancid stench of fermented krill emanating from their blowholes soon became unbearable; it’s an odour once described as ‘an unholy mingling of fart and fishiness’.

Off watch, we’d climb down onto the bob-stay beneath the bowsprit to play with the dolphins racing from side to side ahead of us.  At night, the trail of phosphorescence they left was nothing short of magical.

These majestic cetaceans are revered by all but the vilest, so why is it that we supposedly superior mammals are hell-bent on poisoning their fragile ecosystem?

A quotation from Herman Melville, rather taken out of context from the original source in Moby Dick, is used to introduce the beautifully disturbing campaign film ‘A Plastic Ocean’:

 Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? 

The film has been painstakingly put together by Craig Leeson for the Plastic Oceans Foundation, a network of independent not-for-profits and charitable organizations who are united in their aims to change the world’s attitude towards plastic.

Having missed out on a screening at a local university, I decided on impulse to buy and download the film for myself.  At one hour and forty two minutes long it sat on a USB stick attached to my TV for a few days before the growing pile of ironing gave me reason to run it for a distraction.  It didn’t pull any punches. Watching island peoples of the Pacific gathering washed-up plastic waste for fuel as their forebears had gathered driftwood was sobering; in toxic comparison, fossil fuel seems tame. The post-mortem on a ninety day old shearwater chick, its stomach completely gorged on over two hundred individual pieces of plastic waste, was equally chilling; a regular event for the scientist concerned and this not even her record haul.

The $9.99 charge for the download is a trivial donation to make but the message from the film will stick. It was wasted on the ironing; my advice would be that you support the cause, download the MP4 file in 1080p format and invite a few friends round to watch it in company. The resulting debate might just change a few habits.

While the film is long on examples of the problem, where it falls short is in the delivery of solutions.  But then that’s where we come in.

#plasticpollutes #aplasticocean #plasticwaste #plasticoceans

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