The Secrets of Augustine
We’ve gotten some questions about the 2013 expedition and we figured it might be useful to post them here in case there are others who are wondering about the specifics. If after reading through these, you don’t see the answers you’re looking for, please drop us a line…
Where is Augustine?
Augustine Island is a volcanic island located near the mouth of Cook Inlet, in south-central Alaska. Because it is an active Volcano (one of the most active in Alaska), the mountain is monitored closely by geologists; the beaches, however, are seldom visited.
How big is Augustine?
A circumnavigation of the island will cover about 30 nautical miles. We are planning on being dropped off on Augustine, doing our beach surveys and bird studies, and then paddling about 80 miles back up the coast toward Chisik Island, where our expedition will end.
Why was Augustine selected as the site for this year’s study?
Because it is situated near the entrance to Cook Inlet, Augustine is in the ideal spot to catch a variety of marine debris coming in from the open sea. Also, as it is near the top of the North Pacific Gyre, we are expecting to find some items that have been brought over after the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
Do you expect to find debris on the beaches?
How long will the expedition last?
A lot of this is weather dependent, but we’re planning on leaving Bellingham, WA, on the Alaska ferry on June 22nd and returning about a month later. The island portion of the trip will be about 10 days and the paddle back to Chisik Island (where the kayaking portion of the expedition will conclude), will take another 6 or 7.
What are the main objectives of the 2013 expedition?
There are a few things that we are trying to do here. First and foremost, we want to get the story of marine plastics out in front of as many eyes as possible. People only value what they know, what they are familiar with, and through making this film, we want to get as many people as possible to be familiar with the issue of marine debris and the effects that human activity is having on the seldom-seen places of this planet.
Second, we want to add to the data that already exists about marine debris by surveying beaches that are unlikely to be seen by others. We’ll be using the NOAA survey techniques that we used on the 2012 trip, and the information we gather will be put into the existing group and from that, further studies and cleanup operations can be coordinated.
Third, we’ll be working on establishing field protocol for examining sea birds for plastic ingestion. This is a new aspect of marine debris work for us and we are very excited about it. Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge has “adopted ” us as a sponsored project and we’ll be working with them to develop a method of evaluating birds in the field to see the effects of plastic debris on these populations.
How is the expedition and the film going to be funded?
We are fortunate to have several outstanding organizations as expedition sponsors. Kokatat, based in Arcata, CA, makes the finest watersports clothing and safety equipment on the planet. We’ll be wearing dry suits, PFDs and other clothes from Kokatat both on and off the water. Snapdragon Designs is another gear sponsor, providing us with the spray skirts we’ll be using on the trip. Rite-in-the-Rain, Rainshadow Coffee and other organizations are coming forward as well; information and links can be found elsewhere the web site.
In terms of funding, however, we are stitching together a variety of sources. We bring in some money at events where we’re showing our first film, we’re writing articles for selected magazines and web sites… but the funding that we’ll need for photographic equipment and travel to Alaska will come from the Indiegogo campaign. That’s the plan, anyway. Whether this film project succeeds or fails depends largely on whether we are able to raise the money we need to make it happen. We depend on others getting involved and helping to turn this idea into a reality.
Why should I care about marine debris?
Good question. There are almost as many answers to this one as there are pieces of plastic on the beach, but here are a few answers: Plastic never really goes away… the bottles and the bags, the netting and the foam, becomes part of the scenery once its out there. It’s ugly and it stands as a measure of how little regard we, as a species, hold for our natural environment.
Even more pressing might be the fact that pollutants in the water are drawn to plastic fragments, which then can be ingested by fish, which are caught in a net and served on your table. The pollutants (PCBs are fairly ubiquitous, for example), are absorbed by the fish and, in turn, by you. That’s a pretty good reason to care about the issue.
It comes down to whether you see yourself as part of your surroundings or whether you think that you exist somehow apart from them. We believe that we are responsible for the messes we create, and part of that responsibility dictates that we do what we can to clean them up. By making this film, we hope to raise the overall awareness about the issue of marine plastic and motivate as many people as possible to do something about it.
Media coverage: Tacoma News Tribune