After spending 2007 sailing across the majority of the vast Pacific Ocean, from Mexico to New Zealand, the OceanGybe Expedition team of Hugh Patterson, Ryan and Bryson Robertson, left New Zealand in April this year. The OceanGybe Expedition is a global sailing expedition to explore the remote coastlines of the world, in search of garbage, adventure and ocean waves. The goal of the OceanGybe Expedition is to bring awareness to the vast tracts of undocumented ocean pollution that afflicts our global coastlines and affects the peoples who depend on them for survival.
Upon weighing anchoring and leaving New Zealand, the group headed for Vanuatu. Vanuatu is a small island nation tucked between Fiji and New Caledonia and is vastly forgotten by tourists and industry alike. Famous for cannibalism, black magic and incredible natural beauty; the island chain did not disappoint. “Vanuatu is definitely the most unforgettable place I have ever visited,” said Hugh Patterson, “both the untouched raw natural beauty and the incredible generosity of the people.” Local islanders frequently invited the team to shore for traditional ceremonies, which included dancing, singing and local cuisine. The memories of wizen old men sharing tales of sorcery and black magic, over the embers of a coconut husk fire, will stay with the team members forever.
The Ni- Vanuatu (the people of Vanuatu) live in a completely subsistence manner; they grow all their own food, they drink water from the innumerous mountain waterfalls and springs, and everything is shared amongst the people in the village. They live for free, without the need for daily monetary transactions, and bartering is the norm. The crew of Khulula distributed clothing and some basic medical supplies as they explored the isles in search of garbage.
“Vanuatu was incredibly interesting to study, garbage-wise, because the beaches were as polluted as every other location we have visited; despite the local population consuming basically zero goods contained or wrapped in plastic. The horrifying plastic garbage build-up on these empty islands must have come from the ocean” claims Ryan Robertson. One basic study, completed with the help of the local school children, uncovered approximately 500 pieces of garbage on a deserted beach. In the Rowa Islands, the team found syringes, bleach bottles, soccer balls, lighters and all sorts of flotsam, despite the fact the islands are completely uninhabited. “This garbage undoubtedly has been deposited into the ocean at some other location, easily Fiji or Tahiti, but it is possible that it could have originated as far away as the Galapagos or the west coast of South America. This is just one example how connected we all are in the oceanic realm. Someone throwing a syringe in the ocean in Tahiti probably never thought it would end up in Vanuatu and affect the fishing the locals depend on for survival.” states Bryson Robertson.
The Expedition left Vanuatu in early May bound for Indonesia. The month long trip took them along the southern coasts of Papua New Guinea, around northern Australia, behind East Timor before hitting land again on the island of Roti, in Eastern Indonesia.
In Indonesia, Bryson has been focusing his doctoral thesis work, which involves the interaction between seafloor bathymetry and incoming wave spectra breaking characteristics. “Indonesia is an incredible location to study wave dynamics due to its geographic location. Southern Ocean storms create huge wild ocean waves, which travel unimpeded for thousands of miles slowly organizing themselves before hitting the Sunda Trench and Indonesian Islands. As a result the incoming wave trains are extremely predictable and their long periods allow for better measurements than are available elsewhere”, claims Bryson, “some of the locations have just boggled my mind. The refraction, the wave breaking shape and shape constancy are incredible …. I just never thought it was possible.“
Gamut Productions, based in Victoria, Canada, continues to work with the hundreds of hours of footage from the OceanGybe Expedition and are working with numerous parties trying to finalize details of a documentary series to be broadcast via on-line webisodes. Stay tuned!
The OceanGybe Expedition will be in Indonesia until the end of September before heading west across the Indian Ocean bound for South Africa. This crossing will take them approximately 40 days, all of which will be out of the sight of land.
OceanGybe is a global sailing expedition to explore the remote coastlines of the world, in search of garbage, adventure and ocean waves. We aspire to bring awareness to the vast tracts of undocumented ocean pollution that afflicts these coastlines and affects the peoples who depend on them for survival. It is an expedition to promote change. Change in both the direction of this great planet, towards a more sustainable and aware future, but also in ourselves.
Words by: Hugh Patterson, Ryan and Bryson Robertson