Via the World: Two months in and 3,000 miles to go
British adventurer Sarah Outen is currently on a bid to loop the planet using human power – rowing, cycling and kayaking from London2London:Via the World. Having completed the first phase in 2011, Sarah is now embarking on a gruelling solo row across the North Pacific. She will be blogging for The Independent all the way back to London. Sarah was the first woman and youngest person to row solo across the Indian Ocean (2009, aged 24), was appointed MBE in 2011 for services to rowing, conservation and charity and earlier this year, had her first book published – ‘A Dip in the Ocean: Rowing solo across the Indian’.
The last week has been a bit of a triumph out here on the Pacific – lots of things to celebrate. My blog last month mentioned that I had just spent one week being blown backwards towards Japan in contrary winds and currents. Well, that was a pattern which repeated itself for the following three weeks – see my tracker criss-cross and loop and loop again within a 100 miles. We had two weeks of easterly wind – all blowing me back towards my start point. It was made worse by being caught up amid the confused and tangled remnants of the Kuroshio current – the 1000 mile stretch of eastward flowing current that had been so helpful in clearing the coast of Japan.
There were some great moments within that month, nonetheless. The becalmed days allowed me to get the plankton net out and look at some of the microbeasts floating by and I could always spend my days watching the wildlife. Day 37 saw my first mid-ocean swim which was an exhilarating, howling happy triumph, the cool water a blissful tonic for my cranky muscles. It was especially brilliant because I had taken so long egging myself on to climb in – as much as the zesty blue entices me, the thought of 6 kilometres till the bottom rather freaks me out. My second attempt a few weeks later started well, but resulted in a neck injury. I had found myself suddenly surrounded by a shoal of fish, freaked out and ended up leaping right back in the boat rather awkwardly.
The last few days have seen a very welcome improvement in the weather conditions. After stuggling to sustain any sort of eastward progress, we suddenly had a helping hand from the south – a blast of wind helping progress up and away from the tangle. Happy Socks and I have been surfing along, bouncing up and down the waves and ticking off the miles once more. Yesterday we finally passed over the 165th parallel East and this morning clocked the ‘Less than 3,000 nautical miles to go’ sign until the western edge of Vancouver Island. I reckon this puts us with another 4-5 months out here, a bit more than I had originally hoped for but still within the realm of my food stores I think. We hope! I guess we’ll see.
One thing I have noticed a lot more of in these recent weeks and this patch of ocean is litter. Some days I count over thirty pieces of litter and often I lose count – of all shapes and sizes – from crates and boxes (or bits of them), through bottles and buckets and bags of foam. Considering that I have a very limited view of the water from my low-lying boat and that I am not on full time Litter Watch, that is really worrying. What is more worrying is that there is plenty of plastic – in solution or in tiny eroded pellets called ‘nurdles’ – that I can’t see. All of it is being nibbled and absorbed by all the creatures of the ocean – be it passively or actively foraged and munched. Last week I found the lid of a disposable coffee cup floating on the water with a small crab clinging on to it. While it was a refuge for this creature, to a bird such as an albatross or a turtle that means, mistakenly, food and ultimately starvation. I spend hours thinking about what can be done about plastic pollution – getting it out of the ocean is nigh on impossible, I think – although continuing with beach cleans and as ‘safe disposal’ as possible at least makes some local impact. The biggest help is to introduce an urgent paradigm shift in the way that plastic is regarded and used. It cannot go on being a disposable cheap material. I think the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is the best organisation I have come across in helping effect such changes, in their drive to encourage and help business move towards a Circular Economy from the traditional Linear one – where products are designed with disassembly and reuse of the constituent materials in mind, rather than products being thrown away at the end of their usage.
All salty best,
Want to know where Sarah is right now? Follow her journey tracker by clicking here.
Sarah’s latest blog is Grin Out Loud
Sarah is hoping to raise over £100,000 for her four chosen charities CoppaFeel!, The Jubilee Sailing Trust, The MND Association and WaterAid. You can find out more about these charities, why Sarah chose them and how to donate here:
You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @SarahOuten
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