On a bright sunny morning in 2009, Mary Crowley slipped into the bracing chill of the spectacular Pacific Ocean, 1500 miles away from the land in her wet suit and snorkel mask. And she was enjoying every bit of it until she got near a huge portion of the ocean which was laced with tiny shards of plastic. At a short distance was the tall ship Kaisei. The lady was on a monitoring research expedition along with 25 volunteer crew and six independent marine scientists. But what she witnessed kept her toggling between despair and hope.
Mary Crowley began her project ‘Kaisei’ in the year 2008 with a single point agenda, which is to make the world aware of millions of tons of plastic wastes being dumped into the Pacific Ocean every year, and that if concrete actions are taken, cleanup is very much possible. It was this resolution of hers that led her to board the 151-foot Kaisei in 2009 to the North Pacific Gyre. It was this expedition of hers that drew attention of the entire world to the catastrophic situation, as the news of her voyage reached millions of people across the nations.
Crowley and her team spent over two weeks at sea, and encountered numerous ugly flotillas of plastics, chairs, tubs, supermarket bags, etc. But what was more disturbing to her was the fact that there were vast stretches of water that seemed pretty clean until examined closely.
She is now planning to take her project to the next level by bringing researchers to the gyre so that they can measure the extent of plastic pollution and its impact on the marine life. Her expeditions in the year 2009 and 2010 have helped in collecting important data. She also has the plans to rally entrepreneurs to create and make use of technology that would prove useful in removal and detoxification of plastics and other debris, without affecting the sea life.
A lot of scientists and researchers from around the world are now backing her up. Her team’s 2010 expedition was able to successfully test the path of debris by field-testing the ocean currents, which in turn helped to accurately predict the path of accumulation of plastics and other debris.
Though there are a few skeptics around who are of the opinion that because a majority of plastic debris floats too deeply in the Pacific gyre, it would require much more than surface skimmers which are being developed by Crowley’s team. However, Crowley remains optimistic and that it would require collective efforts from both the environmentalists and technology entrepreneurs for us to be able to see positive results in the future.
As she rightly puts in, “There’s a big unknown. But we have to start!”