The Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) has traveled more than 32,000 nautical miles through the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, where it has collected data on marine plastic pollution.
Following the capsizing of its catamaran, trimaran, in September, R4WO has shifted its plans to focus on land-based activities while continuing its dedication to raising awareness on plastic pollution in the ocean.
October 2015: The Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) has traveled more than 32,000 nautical miles through the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, where it has collected data on marine plastic pollution. Following the capsizing of its catamaran, trimaran, in September, R4WO has shifted its plans to focus on land-based activities while continuing its dedication to raising awareness on plastic pollution in the ocean.
The MOD70 trimaran Race for Water capsized in the Indian Ocean on the way from Palau to the Chagos Islands on 12 September, resulting in significant damage to the trimaran. After the crew was unable to remount the catamaran, the American military base of Diego Garcia and the crew from the Pacific Marlin, a ship from the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), rescued the crew and the trimaran and transported them to Diego Garcia. The crew eventually used a jury rig to travel to the Maldives. The trimaran will be shipped back to France for repairs.
Stève Ravussin, skipper of the expedition, commented on the difficulties faced by the crew following the trimaran’s capsizing. “We are going to join the land teams on the remaining stopovers…Plastic pollution in the ocean is a real environmental disaster we witnessed every day when waking up in the middle of the Ocean, and it is crucial that we carry on the project. Only this way, our misfortune will not be a vain attempt.”
Initial observations by R4WO show widespread plastic pollution in the ocean that is present in large quantities. R4WO scientists report observing “an impressive amount of macro debris along the tide line” that is then breaking down into smaller debris. Beach and water samples collected by the team are being analyzed at laboratories and universities for typology, eco-toxicity in fish eggs and absorbed pollutants in collected micro-plastic. The crew also collected plankton samples that were sent to the US as part of the Plankton Planet science project.
Preliminary results from the first three stopovers in the Azores, Bermuda and Rapa Nui, commonly known as Easter Island, delivered what R4WO has described as “alarming initial findings.” Plastic represents 91% of macro waste collected on Easter Island, 84% collected in the Azores and 70% of waste in Bermuda. Hard plastic composed 40-74% of large plastic debris collected, followed by fishing line and rope from fishing and maritime activities. The third largest category of debris includes capsules, cigarette filters, film and foam. Pellets, a micro plastic that typically comes from container ships losing their cargo, were also prevalent in the Azores and Easter Island, according to the results.
An ‘eBee’ drone is being used to create high resolution maps of beaches and offshore areas. This data will help to produce an image bank that records and identifies waste, including plastic macro waste and litter.
The crew will raise awareness on plastic pollution in Cape Town, South Africa from 12-18 October and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 4-12 November. It will also conduct land-based marine pollution assessments in these areas. The crew is then expected to return to Bordeaux, France, to finish the project.
The Race for Water Foundation also participated in the Our Ocean 2015 Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, from 5-6 October 2015. Marco Simeoni, President of the Race for Water Foundation, presented the Foundation’s approach to fight water plastic pollution.
RW4O aims to conduct a first global assessment of plastic pollution in the oceans by visiting islands located in trash accumulation zones. It also aims to raise awareness on ocean plastic pollution among the general public. [Race for Water News Page] [Our Oceans 2015 Conference Website] [IISD RS Coverage of Our Oceans 2015]