Day 90: Guest Writer Marcus Eriksen

“I promised you a few guest blogs this year, to give you a break from my musings. Here is the first, courtesy of Dr Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute. Long-time Roz-blog readers might remember Marcus as one of the two “Hunks on the JUNK“, the bizarre craft made of 10,000 empty water bottles that I encountered between San Francisco and Hawaii in 2008. Marcus is still fighting the good fight against plastic pollution.

Over to you, Marcus….”

Marcus writes:

I just flew over Diamondhead, the extinct volcano on Oahu, Hawaii. In three days we will sail to the North Pacific Gyre to study plastic pollution. I was last here three years ago when the JUNK raft drifted here from Los Angeles in 88 long days on a homemade raft floating on 15,000 plastic bottles. I remember Diamondhead coming into view, our slow 2-knot drift to the island, and my reunion with my wife Anna.

As the JUNK arrived I was looking forward to telling the world about our adventure. But I was looking back. Literally looking to the sea for Roz, who was to arrive in just a few days. Three weeks earlier we had the most amazing dinner party in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. By rowing and drifting, we intentionally found each other to trade gifts of life – water for food. Joel and I were out of food, and Roz’s water-makers had malfunctioned. We were each other’s salvation.

Now, 3 years later I’m still studying plastic pollution. Roz is still rowing, this time in the Indian Ocean on her way to be the first woman to do so around the world, and she’s finding plastic. Anna and I founded 5 Gyres and have documented plastic pollution in all 5 subtropical gyres. The problem is global, but so are solutions. Nations are banning plastic bags, companies are making smarter products, and even the Olympics is hoping to go plastic bag-free! I’m as hopeful now as I was three years ago.

About 5 Gyres-
The 5 Gyres Institute is dedicated to sustaining our oceans through research, education and adventure. We have recently completed our first series of expeditions, traveling 25,000 miles through the 5 subtropical gyres and discovered plastic pollution throughout them all. Our adventures are followed by actions: published results, educational programs, consul to business and lawmakers, and more adventure, like the 2012 Japan Tsunami Debris Field Expedition. Visit to learn how you can be involved, become crew, become a leader for sustainability in your home, office, school or community.

Photo: Joel Paschal, Roz and Marcus, Hawaii, 2008 (BBC.)

People do ask Marcus:”If there is a garbage pile in the Pacific, why can’t we see it on satellite images?”
He replies: “You’re not going to be able to see it from Google earth, you can’t even see it from an airplane. The plastic very quickly photodegrades. It doesn’t break down – it breaks apart into smaller plastic pieces. So, very quickly a water bottle, within a year becomes 5 or 10,000 small particles of plastic. So, what you are seeing is a blue ocean, but if you look at it closely it’s a plastic soup. There is no island of plastic out there, that is a misconception, what it is is this plastic soup from coast to coast – every ocean around the world.”

Other Stuff”

At last the elements are starting to help rather than hinder. Last night for the first time in about 10 days I woke up marginally closer to my destination than I was when I fell asleep. This was very good news! But progress continues slow, as I crab sideways across strong winds and rough seas. Today “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has been keeping me entertained, and a smile on my face.

Rico – thanks for the words of encouragement (and from such a great film!). I also think of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and how “stuckness” is often a necessary prelude to progress. This too shall pass…

Bill – actually, one of my current snacks is very similar to chocolate icing. I was given twelve cans of butter, and in an effort to find a way to use it up, I’ve taken to mixing it with my organic hot chocolate powder – a super-yummy snack! And thanks for the beautiful words.

Jay – thanks for the invite to the wine and cheesecake party. I don’t like cheesecake, so maybe I can just have the wine. That’s fine with me! It would be great fun to organize a Bay Area get-together. I will give you due warning.

Jenkuzio – your grandmother was a wise woman. Sometimes on my boat I find myself dithering over something, and usually end up telling myself out loud, “Just do SOMETHING!”

Alan from Newburyport – thanks for the naughty joke – enjoyed that one!

Quote for the day: Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.
(Aldous Huxley)

Sponsored Miles: Grateful thanks to Bonnie Sterngold, Lauren Scott.

  • Outsidejay


    The Junk Raft is going to Burning Man!… more on, but they just recently facebooked it!

    ….bluerg on the cheescake, move it to one of many San Francisco pasteries/bakeries! 

    Row Girl Row!

  • Tom


    Ah, classic British literatue! Just remember three things:

    1. 42
    2. Keep your Danger Sunglasses handy (just in case)
    3. And above all, DON’T PANIC!

    And now to make one song play over and over in your head until you go stark raving mad:

    Row, Row, Row Your Boat …

  • Anonymous

    Roz, I agree Alan from Newburyport deserves a blue ribbon for that one.  I heard it in context with the postman and Christmas-time end-of-the-year gratuity … the “breakfast was my idea” is frosting on the cake … Thanks Alan ;-D

  • Anonymous

    Roz, I know it’s probably after your bed time, but if you happen to be out and about, and if the cloud cover is favorable, the next few nights you might get a glimpse of the crescent moon.

    If you do, “give us a wink and make me think of you … and Rita!”

    Aug 3 – moon sets at 11:30 PM WST after 10PM sunset
    Aug 4 – moon sets at midnight WST after 10PM sunset

    Row winking, Roz!

    (Now I can’t get that tune out of my head.)

  • JimBellofBelmont

    You are so far away from everybody that I think you’d better watch out for the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, or would that be TOO infinately improbable:-)
    Row and look out for beasts, 
    Jim Bell.(NSW Australia)

  • Margaret Cullingworth
  • rozsavage

    Thanks Margaret. I am going to post it again on today’s blog. Rita.

  • Pippa

    Thanks Marcus – great guest blogging!

  • Beverly Wu

    Hurrah for a bit of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! And I’m sure you know where your towel is… :)

  • Recycle 2011

    Plastics start as nurdles (pre-production plastic) and sadly, they end up in our oceans in that form. Check out this video to know more about nurdles.