Lat: 13 degrees 15 min N
Long: 059 degrees 33 min W
Frequent readers of our wandering - both geographically and mentally - blogs may be beginning to wonder if we are really doing any sort of studies on the plastic refuse concentrating on our beaches globally. Stories of interesting people, obscure historical references and exciting adventures continually arrive on the website, with only the odd vague reference to garbage, plastics and their destructive effects. Critics could be excused for surmising that we are just sailing and surfing our way around the world but using a green/environmental/ecological message to try and attract attention to ourselves and maybe even secure a some free gear from our sponsors. Well, without some detailed exploration or our website, they would have ample evidence to prove their point. Yet those internet-savvy searchers would have found our page detailing our garbage studies up until South Africa (insert link).
The stories of incredibly friendly and out going people, beautiful beaches, crystalline water and undiscovered paradises all serve as a backdrop to provide contrast to the true polluted nature of our beaches.
For example, take Long Pond Beach, Barbados. Located on the sparsely populated east coast, just north of the infamous Soup Bowls surfing spot, Long Pond is a windswept beach that stretches for mile and miles, complete with all the tropical paradise fixings.
Palm trees, crystal clear water, squeaky white sand and no footprints of others. check.
Imagine a Hollywood movie set of a deserted tropical beach, perhaps with Tom Hanks and Wilson in the movie Castaway as a reference point, and you would have an idea of what Long Pond beach looks like.
Except for the fact that Tom and Wilson's beach did not seem to have the multicoloured high tide line that we have found on EVERY beach we have visited. So what did we find on Long Pond:
- A toilet seat.
- glow sticks.
- old broken kids toys.
- aerosol containers.
- flip flops.
- 15 pieces of sytrofoam
- A sealed lightbulb
- A bbq scrapper
- 37 plastic bottles
- 85 bottle caps
- 2 forks,
- 2 glow sticks
- 6 flip flops
- 6 plastic buckets
- 59 pieces of fishing line and rope
- 2 lighters filled with lighter fluid
- Wheels from a childs' toy.
- A knife handle
- Peanut container
- At least 100 random plastic pieces
- Hair mousse container with teeth marks scratched into it
- A toilet seat
- A huge garbage bag
- Plastic shampoo bottle
Remember this was all found on the sandy surface of the beach in just 100m of coastline, on a beach that runs for miles and miles... It is also away from any significant level of population density, on the windward side of Barbados with nothing but.. Africa and Europe upwind. So where did it all come from ? Well, it is a common misconception that most of the garbage on our beaches comes from those dastardly fishermen, container ships and ocean going vessels, when in actuality, 80% of oceanic plastic washes down rivers and creeks from our cities and towns, into the ocean. We are the problem.
The claim that all the garbage has spend months at sea, floating the 3000nm from Africa or Europe seem to be a bit of stretch. Or does it. where else could it come from? It is the end of the dry season here in the Caribbean so no streams, rives, storm water drains were emptying local refuse onto the beach; eliminating one source of pollution. Fisherman and beach users will always be a source of pollution, yet by traveling to an area of deserted beach, we hope to have minimized that local human source. Offshore fishing boats are be a definite source of pollution on Long Pond, but could not account for all the garbage we found.
So where does it all come from ? .. The South East Trade winds and the Northern Equatorial current, running at up to 2 knots, runs slap-bang into Long Pond and will deposit anything and everything moving in its grasp on the beach. Trace the currents and wind back and you find Europe, North and West Africa. As further evidence, the last item of our pollution list, the enclosed plastic shampoo bottle, had no English text on its exterior, only Portuguese. While the bottle may be constructed on PET plastic, which will photodegrade and sink on its own, the PVC screw cap can withstand all the corrosive efforts of the sun and sea, to keep the bottle filled with buoyant air and floating for untold thousands of miles.