By Ken Campbell
It was just over a year ago that the idea first took shape. A small group of us would kayak along the Olympic coast of Washington state, stopping at remote beaches along the way to look for debris from 2011’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Looking back on it now, I cannot help but be surprised and enthused by how the project has grown and changed.
The Roadless Coast expedition began in June. Although we did find ample evidence of tsunami flotsam along our route, including a soccer ball and a portion of a house—documented in the December issue of Canoe & Kayak—we were struck from the start by the overall level of debris we found. Most of it was plastic and, once we had learned more about the dangers posed by this polymer pollution, our desire to do something about the problem grew. And grew.
Now, a year later, the Ikkatsu Project is a full-time pursuit. The film we produced about the 2012 expedition is making the rounds of film festivals (check out the preview below), and we’re doing showings up and down the West Coast. We’ll be presenting the keynote address at the upcoming Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium, Jan. 25-27, and we’re getting involved in schools as well, teaching K-12 students about the way that ocean currents work, how marine pollution impacts our lives and what can be done to change the situation.
In the midst of all this, we’re preparing for our 2013 expedition to south-central Alaska. We’ll be traveling to volcanic Augustine Island (pictured below), near the mouth of Cook Inlet, and using kayaks once more to resume our survey activities there at the northern edge of the gyre. Computer models suggest that the tsunami debris is likely to have already made landfall and we are excited to be doing the first surveys of these remote shores.
An added task this year will center around plastic ingestion by sea birds. We’ve partnered with Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, a nonprofit focused on studying and protecting these unique populations. We’ll be helping to develop bird examination protocol for use in remote environments. This process will open an entirely new chapter for us and we are looking forward to the things we’ll learn and bring back with us to share with others.
We are planning on documenting the upcoming expedition with another film. The Secrets of Augustine (working title), is expected to be released some time this coming winter. Kokatat is one of our major sponsors again this year and we’re actively looking for others in advance of our departure. For assistance with the costs associated with the filming of the documentary and post-production expenses, we are running a Kickstarter campaign from Jan. 15–March 15. “Ikkatsu” is a Japanese word that translates as “united as one,” and putting a project like this together is something will require cooperation from as many different people as possible. More details are available at our website, and on our Facebook page.
A section of dock washed ashore recently along a part of the Washington coast where we did one of our surveys last summer. It is similar in size and construction to the dock that landed in Oregon in 2012 and although it has not been positively identified as originating from the same location, it is definitely Japanese tsunami debris. Like the Oregon dock, this one also presents the possibility of invasive marine species, something that most experts weren’t thinking about just a few years ago, another reminder of how the ocean connects us all.
The problem of marine debris is one of the major environmental issues of our time. We truly are all in this together.