OceanGybe Update

Khulula taking a rest on the hard in a Trinidad yard. The crew will let the hurricanes pass, then return in November to finish their journey.

Sitka surf team member Bryson Robertson and the crew of Khulula are on hiatus for the Caribbean Hurricane season. Robertson, his brother Ryan Robertson and Hugh Patterson packed up Khulula on May 24th and left her docked on the island of Trinidad. In November, the crew will head back to their trusty vessel for the remainder of their three-year journey around the world to document how garbage travels around the earth’s oceans.

OceanGybe is more than halfway through their trip and have crossed the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. They recently sent this update to all of their sponsors with information on their progress. The update includes news on the Khulula’s travels through many different locations in these oceans as well as information on the data they have been collecting. All of this information is available in the OceanGybe update as well as on the expedition blog on their website located at http://www.oceangybe.com.

Barbados bottletop pile. Replicable anywhere along the circumnavigational route of Khulula


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world – indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

OceanGybe Update: April 2009

In the 8 months since the last OceanGybe update, Khulula and crew have crossed both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. After casting off from Bali on October 2nd the crew headed for the small Australian outpost of Cocos Keeling in the middle of the Indian Ocean, staying one week before pushing on to Rodriguez, Mauritius, Reunion and South Africa in time to avoid the South Indian Ocean cyclone season.

Cocos Keeling is a tiny atoll located 1600km due west of Bali, Indonesia and 3500km east of the island of Mauritius. Cocos Keeling is downwind and down current of Indonesia, and while the 1000 residents produce very little garbage themselves, the beaches are some of the most polluted the crew has found anywhere thus far. Beaches are ankle deep in sandals, water bottles, plastic toys and countless other items of 21st century consumerism, all having been carried downwind from Indonesia.

Standing on what should be one of the most pristine beaches on earth watching garbage and plastic refuse wash up the beach in the shore break will forever be etched in the minds of the OceanGybe crew.

No matter how much they cleaned up the beach, the ocean spilled forth more and more plastic jetsam and filled the cleared areas with new plastic trash. Hugh Patterson observed, “It was the one of the most depressing moments of the trip to see our efforts to clean the beach covered, as though we did nothing, in a matter of moments by new incoming garbage”. While on the islands, the team was able to visit the local high school, present our message of conservation to the kids as well as leave them with 4 donated Sitka surfboards to spread the love of surfing around the world.

Leaving Cocos Keeling, the OceanGybe crew had left themselves with very little time to cross the Indian Ocean before cyclone season, and as a result, stops in Mauritius and Reunion were only long enough to re-provision, catch a couple waves, study the garbage on a local beach and then continue onwards to South Africa.

During the two month whirlwind stop in South Africa, Khulula came out of the water for a fresh coat of bottom paint, in addition to countless other fixes and upgrades in preparation for the Atlantic crossing and the year ahead. In between wiring electronics, fixing sails, replacing engine parts, etc the OceanGybe team were fortunate enough to speak to approximately 3000 students at Wynberg and Bergvliet High Schools, as well as class of students in the township of Khayelitsha.

Khayelitsha is an unplanned settlement of approx. 2 million black and coloured souls on the outskirts of Cape Town. It was a once_in_a_life_time opportunity to visit and speak with this group of eager students who even in the face of incredible personal hardship were committed to trying to keep our beaches and oceans clean. Building on this presentation, OceanGybe teamed up with Palama Metsi, a grass -roots surfing program developed to bring inner city street kids to the beach. Shafiek Khan, the program’s founder /organizer /fundraiser /teacher/everything else mentors the kids and along with teaching basic life skills, like reading, writing, and personal responsibility, spreads the stoke of riding waves.

The Oceangybe crew spent a morning with the kids, sharing their pure joy in surfing and the ocean, pushing them into tiny little waves on boards Sitka Surfboards donated. Ryan Robertson came dripping and grinning out of the water and announced, “I don’t know who is having more fun, me or the groms!” It was an experience that penetrated deeply within all the OceanGybe team and served as a reminder of how lucky we all actually are.

In February 2009, Khulula and her crew set sail once again, this time from Cape Town to cross the Atlantic Ocean, their last uncrossed ocean. Khulula was bound for the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. Stopping at St Helena Island in the mid South Atlantic, they once again found large qualities of garbage from far away littering the beaches. This time from South Africa and Namibia following the Benguela and South Atlantic Currents 3000 km to St Helena.

After a month of sailing, Khulula dropped her anchor at Porto San Antonia on Fernando de Noronha, a UNESCO protected national park off the coast of Brazil. While on Noronha, local researchers educated the Oceangybe team on the effects of plastic pollution to the turtles, dolphins and protected mangroves of the island. During 10km beach clean_up walk, OceanGybe members discovered plastics from all over the world, illustrating the fact that due to their equatorial location, Fernando becomes the resting place for garbage from both the northern and southern hemispheres, as well as the eastern and western Atlantic.

Recently the OceanGybe has also teamed up with Dr. Hideshige Takada at the International Pellet Watch Program based out of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Dr. Takada’s lab analyzes types and quantities of organic pollutants that are trapped in plastic pellets as an indicator of ocean pollution. Collections of PET plastic pellets will be sent to Hideshige to analyze as we continue to travel the world’s oceans and visit its beaches.

After sailing approximately 40 000 ocean km’s and performing garbage studies in 16 different countries, the OceanGybe teams is beginning to create a sufficient database of studies that demonstrates the trends of garbage movement in the ocean. These studies, along with our own firsthand accounts of beaches, presents an irrefutable body of evidence as to the polluted state of our oceans; a global problem requiring global co-operation.