What a beautiful sunrise over the most remote atoll in the world! Clearly Clipperton is as happy to have us here as we are to see her. The colors of the sky and the perfection between her palm trees, the birds and the tremendously indescribable waves combined with the deep blue of the ocean and the blue of the skies had every single one of us pointing every single lense at her to capture the start of her fabulous day. It’s definitely above my skills to do it justice on camera, but if it is possible it will be only by one of the photographers onboard.
The action in the water just beside our boat promises a healthy reef life. Juvenile sharks, schools of jacks, a pod of dolphins all came up to greet the day.
Finally it was time to get the scientists landing on the island as quickly as possible. But as protocol the captain needed to check the landings first. Nobody on this crew has ever landed on Clipperton before. Watching the breakers is a challenge on its own, let alone how to ride a skiff through them. But of course, master skippers – they were able to spot the best position. The first of the scientists was loaded on the zodiac along with the expedition leaders all the exciting equipment and the captain for the first achievement. The rest of us watched them as Reiner, the skipper and engineer, masterfully caught the second wave riding it all the way to the beach with all the weight and suspicion aboard. Jean Francois’ cameras clicking and rolling to document this historic moment of Expedition 2017. They unloaded as the second scientist and the rest of boat 2 prepared for their turn. Another skillful navigation, clicking of cameras and unloading signaled us to get ready for our ride with our light load of equipment required for our marine debris surveys and cleanup.
Based on the briefings we all prepared to wear water appropriate wear and our dive boots for the landing. Have a change of clothes in our bags for the sun, and pack tons of biodegradable and all natural sun lotion. It was easily the best ride ever! Surfing onto a 20foot wave and speeding onto the beach as if it were just another turn on the parkway. The skipper guided us to jump onto the beach and turn the boat around prior to unloading to the zodiac remained more steady through the waves.
The moment of landing and set down of our gear. One look around and it was crushing. As we all put on our long pants, long sleeve shirts and hats to protect ourselves from the sun, our sun glasses, didnt work to mask the devastation that was awaiting us. Before noticing the rock or the birds, the view was of all colors and sizes of plastics. Cups, shoes, barrels, bins, hard hats… anything, anything you can name was on this little strip of land.
Meghan and Sean immediately started to setup the transects between the high tide line and the lagoon marking the areas for cleanup. Meanwhile I walked towards the north of the island to try and grasp, or maybe still hope this amount of human impact was just where we landed and everything else was clear. On the contrary, the more I looked, the more I walked it was worse. Pieces of toy cars, two basketballs, one volleyball, a shovel… infinite number, shapes, color and sizes of bottles and bottle caps. Words fail. Dead birds. Many many live birds that could just as easily be looking me in the eye and saying ‘this is what’s really happening look closer’ with those intense stares they are known to practice. They arent shy at all, as if to declare how much they are used to our nonsense even if they hadnt seen any humans before. They live in our junk.
We got to work and cleared 7 transects. All the while really struggling to understand what this meant about the world, the true state of the oceans. Rather than thinking that anybody is exaggerating the extent of the damage, we’re now pretty sure that what any of us can know is just the tip of the iceberg. How else is this portrait on such a small piece of land possible? The size of the gyre that must be feeding this… the impossible human habits and our complete false impression of the word ‘convenience’. I’m left with just the smallest task to pick-up what I can, about as meaningful in the grand scheme of things as apologizing to the birds of the island about the recklessness on behalf of my species.
This is all at the moment. We need to change, we will change. This is not living, and this is not humanity.
This evening I observe is the quietest the boat has been since the beginning of the trip. None of us are chatty we’re all drowning under the images etched into our heads.
We will go back again tomorrow, just a few of us, to get some more time on the north of the island and possibly checkout the airstrip.
WIFI has been very spotty and I’m unable to load any photos for now.