The Malaysian Insider
April 03, 2014
As the search continues in the Indian Ocean for signs of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the staggering amount of rubbish in the sea is hampering efforts to find possible debris from the missing aircraft.
Among those who had highlighted this problem is Fairfax writer Greg Ray whose article “The Ocean is Broken”, written last year went viral on social media, reported The Maitland Mercury.
In the article, Ray had quoted Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen who had sailed from Melbourne to Osaka and from there to San Francisco who expressed his sadness and horror at the astounding volume of garbage he encountered in the ocean during his journey.
Ivan told Ray that one of the things he noticed was the absence of the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.
The birds were missing because the fish were missing.
Instead, in its place was a huge amount of garbage floating in the ocean.
“We saw a factory chimney sticking out of the water, with some kind of boiler thing still attached below the surface. We saw a big container-type thing, just rolling over and over on the waves,” Ivan’s brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States told Ray.
“We were weaving around these pieces of debris. It was like sailing through a garbage tip.
“Below decks you were constantly hearing things hitting against the hull, and you were constantly afraid of hitting something really big. As it was, the hull was scratched and dented all over the place from bits and pieces we never saw,” Ray quoted Macfadyen as saying.
Ray wrote that plastic was everywhere, including bottles, bags and every kind of throwaway domestic item you can imagine, from broken chairs to dustpans, toys and utensils.
Even the boat’s paint job was not spared, he said, adding that the boat’s vivid yellow paint job, never faded by sun or sea in years gone past, reacted with something in the water off Japan, losing its sheen in a strange and unprecedented way.
Glenn also told Ray that there were “thousands of thousands” of yellow plastic buoys.
There were also huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.
Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing their wires in the middle of the sea, Ray wrote.
“In years gone by, when you were becalmed by lack of wind, you’d just start your engine and motor on,” Glenn told Ray.
“In a lot of places we couldn’t start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That’s an unheard of situation, out in the ocean.
“If we did decide to motor we couldn’t do it at night, only in the daytime with a lookout on the bow, watching for rubbish.
“On the bow, in the waters above Hawaii, you could see right down into the depths. I could see that the debris isn’t just on the surface, it’s all the way down. And it’s all sizes, from a soft-drink bottle to pieces the size of a big car or truck.”
Ivan believed that part of the floating garbage was a result of the tsunami which hit Japan a couple of years ago.
“The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.
“The ocean is broken,” he said, shaking his head in stunned disbelief.
Ivan planned to lobby government ministers to help solve the problem.
He was also going to approach the organisers of Australia’s major ocean races, trying to enlist yachties into an international scheme that uses volunteer yachtsmen to monitor debris and marine life, Ray wrote in his article.
Ivan had signed up to this scheme while he was in the US, responding to an approach by US academics who asked yachties to fill in daily survey forms and collect samples for radiation testing – a significant concern in the wake of the tsunami and consequent nuclear power station failure in Japan.
“I asked them why don’t we push for a fleet to go and clean up the mess,” he told Ray.
“But they said they’d calculated that the environmental damage from burning the fuel to do that job would be worse than just leaving the debris there.”
The huge amount of garbage in the ocean has hampered search efforts for MH370.
Satellites keep picking up images of objects in the water but some of those objects have proven to be nothing but junk. – April 3, 2014.