A young Steller’s eider, one of the rarest birds in Alaska. Credit: Heidi Cline, Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service
It’s been two years since the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy – the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history. Think back to the awful images of that spill: oil billowing into the ocean from BP’s Macondo well, people frantically setting up boom to protect the vulnerable coast, and skimmers trying to scoop up some fraction of the oil that was spreading over the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
Now try to imagine responding to a similar spill in the Arctic Ocean. There would be no major ports from which to stage responders and vessels. There would be no roads to move equipment along the coast. Responders might have to cope with sea ice that would clog skimmers and wreak havoc on boom. And they might have to call off cleanup efforts because of the Arctic’s notoriously challenging conditions – conditions that can include extreme cold, thick fog, prolonged darkness and hurricane-force winds.
Debris collected from Transect #1 at Sea Paradise Beach -- Nick Mallos
Mawar is the Malaysian word for rose, but Typhoon Mawar has been nothing but a thorn since we arrived in Yokohama, Japan. Like hurricanes, typhoons form when tropical depressions escalate into cyclones; in the Pacific, these cyclones are called typhoons, while in the Atlantic they are known as hurricanes.
This past weekend, Mawar delivered heavy rain and sustained winds of 110 mph to the Philippines, gusting up to 130 mph and taking the lives of eight Filipinos. We felt peripheral effects of Mawar in Japan as intensifying winds and strong gusts jostled boats and tested the strength of dock lines in the marina.
Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos
A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.
Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.
Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.
The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.
This is a guest post from Japan Environmental Action Network.
No matter where we live, we are united in our effort to leave a beautiful ocean for future generations. And with your support, we know this to be true now more than ever.
To all those who gave, thank you. We are so grateful for your donations to help JEAN continue working with the issue of marine debris in Japan.
Last year, Japan faced such a devastating disaster with the earthquake followed by the tsunami. Helping hands were lent from all over the world with encouragements and prayers. Together with site captains and volunteers who carry out or participate in the International Coastal Cleanup held through out Japan, we kept feeling sympathy for the rehabilitation and restoration of the affected areas. During this time, we carried out actions of support in the way each of us are able to. At the same time, we’ve been able to continue having the Cleanup as we have been doing in years past.