The ocean is broken
By GREG RAY Oct. 18, 2013, 10 p.m.
Ivan's brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United
States, marvelled at the "thousands on thousands" of yellow plastic
buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets.
Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol,
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.
"In years gone by, when you were becalmed by lack of wind, you'd just
start your engine and motor on," Ivan said.
Not this time.
"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.
"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.
"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."
Plastic was ubiquitous. Bottles, bags and every kind of throwaway
domestic item you can imagine, from broken chairs to dustpans, toys and
And something else. 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.
BACK in Newcastle, Ivan Macfadyen is still coming to terms with the
shock and horror of the voyage.
"The ocean is broken," he said, shaking his head in stunned disbelief.
The ocean is broken
3. Januar 2014