DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Journey Of Junk:
Joel Paschal, right, and Marcus Eriksen sailed for almost three months and covered 2,300 miles, from Long Beach Aquarium in California to Honolulu, aboard the Junk raft, which is made of 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessna 310. The voyage was made to bring attention to the increasing environmental problem of plastic debris in the Pacific. Paschal held up a jar yesterday filled with plastic debris that they collected.
Raft: Hawaii voyage focuses on ocean debris
Joel Paschal and Marcus Eriksen nearly encountered numerous hurricanes in their 88 days sailing across the Pacific Ocean aboard the so-called Junk raft to publicize the dangers affecting the oceans.
"We have in 50 years turned our ocean into a plastic soup," said Eriksen, director of research and education for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. "The solution, we think, is to end the age of disposable plastic."
Curious onlookers gathered on the Ala Wai Boat Harbor docks yesterday to gawk at the unusual sailboat. It was the first time the Junk raft docked since departing from Long Beach, Calif., on June 1. The crew landed on Oahu on Tuesday after anchoring the boat offshore.
The Junk raft, with four sails, is made of garbage. Discarded fishing nets stuffed with 15,000 plastic bottles serve as pontoons, and part of a Cessna 310 airplane is the cabin.
A sailing raft made of recycled junk arrived at Ala Wai Harbor after sailing from California, with two men sailing to spread a cause. 08/27/2008.
The voyage was meant to bring attention to the rise of plastic pollution in the ocean.
"Plastic, like diamonds, are forever," said Charles Moore, head of the Algalita. "These are not innocent little bits of confetti; they're poison pills. They are like sponges for pollutants." Moore has been collecting data and plastic samples in the North Pacific gyre for years.
"Hawaii is a net receiver of marine debris," Paschal continued. "We need to clean up our own house before we tell other people to stop sending rubbish to our beaches and shores."
One way for Hawaii residents to do that is to follow Maui's lead and ban plastic bags for businesses, Paschal said to a group of friends, media and supporters gathered at the Ala Wai fuel dock.
Plastic particles turned up everywhere on the trip: in a net dragging alongside the Junk raft, and even on their dinner plates. While filleting a fresh catch for supper, Eriksen and Paschal said they found plastic in the fish's stomach.
"We traveled through the gyre collecting debris, and they (marine life) also traveled through the gyre collecting debris," said Paschal.
Anna Cummins, the education adviser with Algalita, also greeted Paschal and Eriksen. Engaged to Eriksen, Cummins said Junk's homecoming was long overdue.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal sailed for almost 12 weeks and covered 2,300 miles from Long Beach, Calif., to Honolulu aboard the Junk raft, a vessel that is made of rubbish. The voyage was made to bring attention to the increasing environmental problem of plastic debris in the Pacific.
"They looked great. I thought they would be all emaciated," said Cummins of the crew who survived on fish jerky and peanut butter for two weeks. The sailing duo arrived a little more bronzed and a little thinner but unscathed.
Expected to be six-week-long voyage, the Junk raft was at sea nearly twice as long. Nearing the end of their journey, food was scarce. Roz Savage, who is rowing solo across the Pacific to also raise awareness of ocean pollution, met up with the seafarers for a rare midocean rendezvous arranged by satellite phone.
"She actually gave us food and we gave her water. An amazing meeting in the middle of nowhere," said Eriksen.
Back on land after about three months, the adventure is not quite over for Junk's crew.
After heading back to California, Eriksen and Cummins will ride amphibious bicycles along the West Coast to Mexico in the third part of the Message in a Bottle awareness campaign.
"What's next? I'm going to go take a shower, drink a beer and eat a pizza," Paschal said, opening a Pacifico beer dockside. He lives on a sailboat in the Ala Wai Harbor.
Junk is not leaving Hawaii so soon. Still intact after three months at sea, the raft is expected to be displayed on the front lawn of the Waikiki Aquarium starting Aug. 30. It will remain there for about a week before being dismantled and shipped to California.