Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen sailed from from Melbourne to Osaka, as he’d done 10 years before, to find that life had vanished from the broken ocean. Greg Ray reports that the first leg of Macfayen’s journey to Japan was eerily quiet, with hardly any fish nor birds to be found. But, after Osaka, matters only became worse. He writes:
The next leg of the long voyage was from Osaka to San Francisco and for most of that trip the desolation was tinged with nauseous horror and a degree of fear.
“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.
“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.
“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”
In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.
“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”
Ivan’s brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marvelled at the “thousands on thousands” of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.
Macfadyen returned home and decided that since nothing was being done to clean up the horrible mess that the tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown has left the ocean in, he would sound the call for help. Ray writes:
Recognising the problem is vast, and that no organisations or governments appear to have a particular interest in doing anything about it, Macfadyen is looking for ideas.
He plans to lobby government ministers, hoping they might help.
More immediately, he will approach the organisers of Australia’s major ocean races, trying to enlist yachties into an international scheme that uses volunteer yachtsmen to monitor debris and marine life.
Macfadyen signed up to this scheme while he was in the US, responding to an approach by US academics who asked yachties to fill in daily survey forms and collect samples for radiation testing – a significant concern in the wake of the tsunami and consequent nuclear power station failure in Japan.
“I asked them why don’t we push for a fleet to go and clean up the mess,” he said.
“But they said they’d calculated that the environmental damage from burning the fuel to do that job would be worse than just leaving the debris there.”
Read the full report, click here.