Thursday, May 12, 2016

make good choices.

Changing plastic pollution starts with making good choices.......

While the mission of Plastic Ocean Project is to do research regarding plastics in the environment, It is also all about finding solutions to the negative impacts due to plastic.


The mission of Plastic Ocean Project, Inc. 501(c)3 is to educate through field research, implement progressive outreach initiatives, and incubate solutions to address the global plastic pollution problem.  Working with and for the next generation to create a more sustainable future.  

Our long term goals are to actively and collectively incubate 5 solutions toward  the prevention and removal of marine plastics on and off-shore.  We intend to bring together a community of world leaders focused on innovation, collaboration, education and outreach, while spearheading and mobilizing focused research and innovation projects to meet the challenge of  removing man-made debris from our oceans in support of our next generation,  while also creating new sustainable businesses.

One of the biggest problems regarding plastics today is our use of single use plastics, and the litter they create.  (Water bottles, straws, k-cups, plastic lids for to-go coffee, etc).
There is a solution to this and it all comes down to our choices.  If we say NO to single use and replace those things with alternatives, we are making a huge difference regarding the plastic epidemic.
Instead of buying bottled water, we can have our own faucet with clean water to fill our re-usable bottles.  This company is doing just that.... supplying us with alternatives to bottled water, AND showing the impact of what bottled water is doing to our Earth.
When it comes to plastic straws, there are many alternatives for those of us who really need a straw.
Glass Dharma makes beautiful straw from glass and you can take them with you wherever you go.  Although they are made from glass, they are durable.  I have never had one break! Please say "NO" to plastic straws when you are dining out.

This glass coffee cup is perfect for those who love their morning joe.  There are plenty of re-usable coffee mugs/ cups to choose from.  I like this one because it's glass and it's simple.  Drinking from plastic, whether it is BPA free or not, isn't a good idea.  The chemical compounds in plastics can leach into your drink or food causing potential health issues.  This alone is reason enough not to use plastic for food or beverages. This article talks about the chemical compounds and there are many other links to support this.

When it comes to K-cups (Keurig), DONT DO IT!!  Really.  This is just not good on so many levels!
These little single use K-cups are wreaking havoc in the environment.  They're everywhere..... Read this article to learn more and go here for a simple alternative.  A good rule of thumb is that if it's really convenient and quick, it's probably not good for our bodies, or the environment.  Making a good cup of coffee can be a nice little ritual in the morning.  Using a French press is one way to make a yummy pot of coffee and also to enjoy the process.  Check out this article and find the right press for you based on the best reviews of 2016.  Just need one cup?  There are plenty of alternatives to the plastic K-cup.

If we all make different choices regarding plastics, especially single use plastics, we can make a huge difference.  There are lots of ways to reduce our single use.  For information on how to make your own cleaning supplies, go HERE.   Please share your ideas or email with any questions.

"Individually we are one drop, together, we are an ocean".

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Taking our mission to heART.

From litter to art....

From Plastics to art- Plastic Ocean Project members are passionate about cleaning the environment, and re-using some of those materials to make art that raises awareness and tells a story.
Founder of POP, Bonnie Monteleone collected plastics from nearly 10,000 nautical miles in three oceans and used them to create a beautiful work of art inspired by Katsushika Hokusai's, famous wave painting, "The Great Wave of Kanazawa".  Bonnie's exhibit is used around the country to bring awareness to the epidemic of plastics in our oceans.  Titled, "What Goes Around, Comes Around", this massive collection of canvas brings it's viewers to the center of the issue as they stare at the twenty five foot exhibit adorned with plastic bits and pieces Monteleone found during her research in four of the five gyres.  Five bins of plastics and trash pulled from the ocean samples allow viewers to see hands on what is used in the art work and what is being collected from our oceans.  
From The Cameron Art Museum, in Wilmington, NC to the Aquarium of the Pacific in California, and many places in between, the installation has traveled over 4,700 miles, and has been on view in many locations across the country.  Please visit Plastic Ocean Project website for more information. 

Bonnie Monteleone with her exhibit "What Goes Around, Come Around"
 at the UNCW Center for Marine Science, April 2016

Many of the Plastic Ocean Project volunteers are passionate about art and raising awareness.  Local artist, Kim Beller, Secretary and volunteer for POP,  designed art for the "Ocean Friendly Establishment" program started by Ginger Taylor of Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean.  Ginger teamed up with POP and Surfrider Cape Fear Chapter to launch this program that helps reduce the use of single use plastic straws among restaurants.  Restaurant owners continue to find this program helpful, as the only requirement is to pass out a straw only if customers request it.  The latest restaurant to sign up is "Crabby Mikes" in Surf City, NC and is the first restaurant in the Topsail area to become an "Ocean Friendly Establishment".   Each restaurant who signs up receives a framed copy of the  hand painted certificate to hang in their establishment.  Beller was recently featured in Wilma Magazine  for this work.

Doug and Moe receiving the "Ocean Friendly Establishment" certificate.

Arisa Yoon, UNCW POP

UNCW Plastic Ocean Project members are also getting very artsy with their use of plastic trash they collect at the many cleanups they organize.  Their first annual Art Gala, "Plastic to Art", was held at EXPO 216 in downtown Wilmington, on Earth Day.  Arisa Yoon, UNCW POP member and Jared Sales, Event Manager of EXPO 216,  along with the UNCW POP members, organized this event to raise awareness and as a fundraiser for UNCW POP.  The group collected close to $1000.00 selling art they made using plastics from the cleanups they organize.  

"Later Doesn't Exist" by Catherine Hunt and Ashlyn Keidel

Coral Reef, by Katy Nickel

Jared Sales and Arisa Yoon with a Whale Sculpture 
created by Bonnie Monteleone and Tricia Monteleone

Terri Misch, of Wilmington, NC,  is another example of an artist working to raise awareness.  She will be leaving for Puerto Rico soon and this is what she says about her mission.......


"My Personal Journey of Evolution in Creative Endeavors as it Relates to Water and Aesthetics in an
Environmentally Sound Manner .

Location: Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

I am about to embark on a great adventure. I am leaving all manner of familiar and toxic means of expressing the art that takes place in my mind at home in Wilmington, North Carolina as I travel to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Acrylics, acetone, paint pens and enamel, glue sticks and spray paint, will sit this endeavor out. Canvases forlorn and noxious fumes will soon be forgotten as I attempt to portray the island, the ocean, and sea life in a natural and environmentally sound way.

Since I have yet to discover what materials will be available, I am not exactly sure what direction my art will take. I am hoping to utilize found, reclaimed, and natural materials. I aim to bypass the consumption of any purchased supplies that are not biodegradable, experimenting with natural pigments, fiber art, and sculpture, with an open-minded approach to new forms of expression. I will incorporate plastic pollution in my art to highlight this issue, in hopes that I will find a personal solution in my quest of capturing the essence of our blue planet.

I hope that this transformative period will bring beauty to others and further awareness of the plight of our oceans when I return to the Carolina coast in the fall."

We will stay in touch with Terri as she travels and will share photos with you when she returns!


EARTH day is EVERY day!!  What can you do?  Organize a cleanup wherever you are.  Make art from some of the pieces of plastics you find.  Skip the straw.  Say no to single use.  Use re-usable bags when shopping.  Buy from the bulk section and take your own jars.  Talk to your friends about what you are doing.  All choices you make, big or small have an impact. 

“Our decisions, our actions will shape everything that follows” Dr Sylvia Earle

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dr. Kara Lavender Law Marine Debris Event

"Where is all the Plastic?"

On Monday night the Plastic Ocean Project, the UNCW Center for Marine Science (CMS) and Surfrider invited Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) marine debris researcher, Dr. Kara Lavender Law to Wilmington to partake in a two day marine debris event complete with a film screening and seminar.

Dr. Law is a research professor at the Sea Education Association at WHOI, where she studies the distribution, behavior and fate of plastic debris in our oceans. She serves as the co-principle investigator of the Marine Debris Working Group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and hold a Ph.D. in physical oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

About 25 students, faculty and community members turned out for the screening of ‘Into the Gyre’, a documentary about WHOI’s marine debris research in the North Atlantic. The film focused on a research expedition made by WHOI researcher in 2010 to the Sargasso Sea, the center of our North Atlantic gyre. The researchers were pursuing answers to the question of where exactly our plastic trash goes when it is released into the ocean, how long does it take to get there, and most importantly how much is out there. The data collected during the 35 day journey contributed to an almost 40 year old collection of marine debris at WHOI.

After the film, Dr. Law held a Q & A with the audience discussing the research techniques used during the film, her research on the photo-degradation of marine plastics, and the consequences of our plastic trash filling the mid Atlantic.

On Tuesday night, Dr. Law was invited to CMS as one of this year’s speakers in their The Planet Ocean seminar series. Dr. Law’s talk, entitled ‘Plastics in the Ocean: Floating Island or Invisible Threat’, addressed many aspects of the marine debris issue from misconceptions about the actual physical make up of these ‘garbage patches’ to estimates on how much plastics are actually floating on the ocean’s surface.

According to a study done in 2010, approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean. Using statistical modeling of plastic sampling data, the researchers estimate about 7000 – 245,000 metric tons are on the surface of the water. That’s less than one percent of what is entering the ocean. So where is all the plastic?

That is the million dollar question, that has unfortunately not been answered yet. Some scientists hypothesize the plastic could be below the surface, sinking to the sea floor, being ingested by animals, or ending up on beaches and coastlines.

Dr. Law wrapped up the lecture by touching on ways we can all do our part locally to tackle this global issue. These include recycling, reusing, enacting extended producer responsibility, cleaning up our coastlines, not directly releasing litter (balloons, cig butts or microbeads). But the absolute best way to ensure plastic free oceans is by reducing our plastic use. Avoiding single use plastics and choosing reusable options. Or simply skipping unnecessary items, like straws. There are many ways we can all contribute!

During the reception following the seminar, the audience was able to speak with Bonnie Monteleone, Founder of Plastic Ocean Project, along with other POP volunteers, UNCW POP Student volunteers, and UNCW marine debris researchers to learn more about the pollution solutions being explored at UNCW. Also on display was the POP traveling art exhibit created by Bonnie Monteleone, (Plastic Ocean Project founder), out of recycled debris collected during her trips to 4 of the 5 major ocean gyres. Bonnie presented Dr. Laws with a copy of the art and other gifts after the presentation.

Bonnie Monteleone and Dr. Kara Lavender Laws

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

“Waste is a Terrible Thing to Waste”

Bonnie Monteleone, Found of Plastic Ocean Project, introduces Priyanka Bakaya, founder of PK Clean 
to the audience of students, faculty, local government, and members of the community attending her presentation at UNCW.

“It’s really going to be the biggest problem of our generation.” Forbes ’30 under 30’ award winner, Priyanka Bakaya begins the plastics-to-oil conversation here in Wilmington, NC to a large crowd of about 70 UNCW students and faculty, community members, and local legislators. The Stanford-MIT grad is the CEO and founder of PK Clean, a new company successfully and efficiently converting oil derived plastics back into usable fuel.

Priyanka Bakaya, Founder of PK Clean

Currently about 10% of our waste is recycled in the US per year, competing with an 8% increase per year in plastic consumption. Most often recycled are plastics numbered one and two, while numbers three through seven often end up filling landfills (and our oceans). Every piece of plastic created (with the exception of the plastic that has been incinerated) is out on the planet somewhere. Now imagine that  inside each and every piece of plastic that there was energy, just waiting to be utilized. Clean energy we can use to fuel our cars and heat our homes.

“Instead of seeing [plastic] waste disappear into the trash can, we are seeing it as a resource.” – Priyanka Bakaya, PK Clean

While growing up in Australia, Bakaya spent much her time along side family friend, Percy Kean, in his homemade chemistry laboratory. He shared with her his process of converting typical waste into fuel by reducing long carbon chains. Having always been interested in the environment and where our waste ends up, this big idea stuck with her through her years at Stanford and after the death of Kean.

“Once you have all that desire to solve [the plastic problem], you have the ability to find a solution.” Starting about 5 years ago, working with other engineers at MIT, Bakaya was able to honor Kean’s lifework by working hard to perfect his model and creating the company PK Clean (in his namesake).

This process takes all plastic types (including landfill bound unrecyclables) through its continuous reactor system. This oxygen free environment means the plastics are not being combusted (a process often leading to the emission of dangerous dioxin chemicals). The process does emit a light hydrocarbon gas (methane) that is put back into the system to keep the reactor heated, as well as an inert char (formed from organic and unreacted materials on the plastics). Once through the continuous reactor system, the plastic has successfully been converted to crude oil and can then be distilled to diesel fuel (or other fuels by distilling at different temperatures). This product is then ready for use in a lawnmower, asphalt, etc.!

PK Clean’s technology is the most efficient plastics-to-oil converter to date. It has an energy recovery ratio of 52 to 1, meaning for every unit of energy put in, 52 units are produced. The operating costs of PK Clean’s system is $30 per barrel of diesel fuel ($40 less than market price). According to the American Chemistry Council, the plastics-to-oil sector could produce 36,000 jobs and bring in $6.6 billion dollars annually to the US (2014). PK Clean expects “standard off-the-shelf technology within a decade”, Bakaya explains. Their plan has been to start local in Salt Lake City, taking this project across the country, and globally, currently exploring options in Canada and Australia.

In 2014, Bonnie Monteleone (founder of the Plastic Ocean Project) reached out to Bakaya and her team at PK Clean about the possibility of converting ocean plastics into fuel via this process. Ocean plastics often spend decades at sea constantly being broken up by wave action, scattered by wind, and degraded by light. The surface of ocean plastics will absorb toxins (BPA, PCBs, DDT) and grow organic matter. This makes ocean plastics a different animal than plastics from recycle centers. However, that didn’t stop PK Clean from using samples collected by Plastic Ocean Project members from a beach in Hawaii and putting it through their reactor. What it produced was clean fuel! Using the same process of other plastics.

Together with the Plastic Ocean Project, they want to bring this technology to coastal communities and islands to tackle the ocean plastic pollution problem. By giving waste value and exposing the amount of energy locked up in each and every piece of plastic, PK Clean and POP hope to encourage a movement from the throw away culture so prevalent in today’s society.

“I hope you’ll join us in our mission to end plastic waste forever”, Bakaya urged the UNCW audience as she discussed ways to become involved. By raising awareness, starting local with a major local impact, extending our knowledge of the process through research and exploring community funding opportunities are all great ways the local Wilmington community can get involved right now. We know that plastic waste is the problem and “being conscious of your own habits with waste” (Bakaya) will be the key to the solution.  

Following Bakaya’s talk, New Hanover County Commissioner, Rob Zapple, stood up to say a few words. “[We need] to start mining our landfills and recovering that energy”, Zapple stated. He also announced the establishment of a new material recovery facility in New Hanover.

Rob Zapple - New Hanover County Comissioner

Priyanka's presentation left the audience feeling inspired and ready to support this plastic pollution solution. “UNCW and the Plastic Ocean Project has opened my eyes (even wider) to the problems that so many people don’t think are problems”, Gen Wright, UNCW undergraduate.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Community Cleanups Matter

Cleaning the community and spreading awareness through
 outreach and education.

On Wednesday, March 9, UNCW POP volunteers, Scott Davis and Danielle Gutierrez spoke to the students at Ogden Elementary School in Wilmington, NC.  During the school wide presentation, Scott and Danielle spoke to the students about the dangers of plastics in our oceans, how they affect turtles, cetaceans and fish, and what the children can do to help.  They played interactive games with the students while spreading the message about how long plastics and litter last in our environment.  Kim Beller, Plastic Ocean Project volunteer spoke about the Middle Sound Community Cleanup on Saturday, March 12, and invited the students and their families to join the event.  A huge thank you to Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots Mini-grant that helped fund the cleanup and to Ogden Elementary School and to Yvonne Lovvorn for helping organize the event.  


Middle Sound Loop Community Cleanup

On Saturday, March 12, the Middle Sound Loop community came together to help clean the litter on the loop.  The 5 mile loop is surrounded by water on 3 sides, including creeks, marsh, wetlands, and the intracoastal waterway.  The concern and reality is that this litter and debris will eventually make its way to the ocean.  Students, parents, and residents in the community came together and cleaned over 750 pounds of litter from the loop.  Plastic Ocean Project Founder, Bonnie Monteleone was there to speak to the crowd about the issues with plastics and what the organization is doing to help clean up the environment and come up with solutions to the plastic epidemic.
Lisa Rider, President of Plastic Ocean Project talked about the importance of using the Marine Debris Tracker App.  No matter where you are, you can use the tracker app which adds all litter collected to a data base system which helps keep track of top items collected.  

During the cleanup, volunteers helped sort and weigh all of the trash collected.  The recyclables were taken out to be disposed of at the recycle center.  Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean volunteer, Ginger Taylor helped with the efforts and picked up trash along the loop. 

Area residents, Jenn Butler, Tony Butler and Chelsea Thornwell came out to pitch in and clean up.  

Adam Brown, Middle Sound Loop resident volunteered to haul off the trash and debris.  (Thanks so much)!  He hauled a few trailer loads of trash to the dumpster.

Students pitched in to make a difference in the community. 

The amount of trash picked up and removed from the loop is truly unbelievable.  We have to start making different choices and encouraging people to dispose of litter in a responsible way.  Organizing a neighborhood/ community cleanup is a good way to make a difference and bring people together.  Wherever you are, whether near an ocean or in the middle of the country, you can prevent litter from going into our oceans by cleaning up in your area.  Everything goes downstream and eventually ends up in the oceans.  A huge thanks to all of the volunteers who showed up to help with the cleanup.  It was a huge success.  Another cleanup is in the works for September.  
As we usually focus on the beaches and spoil islands, this cleanup in Middle Sound brought awareness and is proof that we need to clean up in neighborhoods and communities as well.
If you would like to organize a cleanup, please feel free to contact us with questions and suggestions.

"Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Las Olas Grande

Update from Lisa Rider taken from the eXXedition blog

Lisa’s hand illustrated birthday card by resident 
artist Stella Marina
"Last night after science we celebrated my birthday with an awesome Pad Thai dinner made by chef Stella and Barbara and I was surprised with a vegan cake with sprinkles and candles to the tune of the birthday song being sung by the crew. It was more than I could ever ask for on a special birthday at sea. I received a beautiful card with a hand drawn sailor chick at sea with a friendly manta ray near by coming up out of a wave to greet her. The card was made with love by our very talented eXXpedition resident artist, Stella Marina, which was signed by the crew and I will treasure this gift and the memory forever.
The crew also celebrated a day of science with no plastic! Our manta trawl micro-plastics sample yesterday collected no plastics visible in our on board microscope. The morning dolphins, being at sea, dinner, cake, card, and the gift of a day without ocean plastic was one very special birthday indeed.
Today, we are making good time still, which is exciting for me because I am super stoked for the trip up the river to Bartica, Guyana. I am not particularly excited about the potential mosquitos, but we have net for that and the sights and smells of the jungle will be a super rad change of scenery including different flora and fauna and potentially different things found within our sample collections and observation data.
Big swells coming through make everyday tasks like making coffee without burning yourself, brushing your teeth without bruising yourself in several different places, or even walking without bumping into any number of obstacles along the way, very difficult, exhausting, frustrating, and the bruising is just unavoidable.
Being on deck when swells come through is exciting and being at the helm even more so. It is like riding up and down mountains of water, like surfing without having to paddle out, sort of. The waves remind me of my sweet surfing social worker at home probably catching waves much north of here in the Atlantic. When we pass big container/cargo ships, we see huge wake swells that look like they would be fun to ride for a bunch of adrenaline junkies – I think I know a few at home that would partake if they had the chance. My uncle G would be all over it.
The key to the big wave party at sea is being on deck. On deck there is, sometimes, a breeze and you can see the waves coming in and the boat going up and over them. You can anticipate the movement and brace yourself, which doesn’t always mean that you don’t land on a hard surface, but at least it cuts the chance down a bit. At night and during science, we are tethered in by our life jackets for obvious reasons. As fast as we are moving, the height of the waves, and the current here are several factors that would make it hard to get back to a woman overboard. We did, however, practice a woman overboard drill a few days ago and I am confident that our crew would be able to recover someone if they needed to. I really don’t think that will be necessary given that the first rule of sailing is to stay on the boat.
Big waves and kitchen work is sketchy and today Katrina and I have cooking and cleaning duties throughout the day. At least the stove is on a gimble which makes the stove top rock front and back along with the motion of the boat. It helps to put on some music to go along with the rocking of the waves. Today, we have chosen a varied selection of strictly 90s music, which brings me back to the days when I was much more of a free spirit than I am now. Back then, I would probably be screaming “weeeee” at the motion of these waves and dying for a chance to be pulled behind the boat by wake board or skurfing board. This reminds me of a time that my husband and I were sailing his 23 footer along the ditch (Intracoastal Waterway) from Sneads Ferry to Beaufort and I had the crazy idea of getting pulled behind on a kayak while at sail. It was a very interesting experience to say the least. Probably not the smartest idea, but I survived with a fun story to internally giggle about when the memory pops in my head.
Waves and going to the head… Wow, what can I say about that?! I really thought I would have better sea legs by now since I have completely forgot what it is like to walk on a nonmoving surface. The head, which includes a shower and toilet in one is about the size of a telephone booth, but not as high. It sort of reminds me of the shower space in an apartment I had once in my early 20s. You basically straddle the 2 ft by 2 ft square of floor with legs to keep from bouncing off each wall while standing for a shower, brushing teeth, or washing hands. Yes, I still bump into the walls no matter what. If it wasn’t plastic and it wasn’t so hot, I might consider wrapping myself in bubble wrap. Maybe recycled tires since they seem to work so well for bumper cars. Bumper cars is exactly what it is like walking through the galley way. I am so glad the tropical sun has tanned my skin enough to help hide the bruises. Maybe these too, I should call beauty barnacles. The beauty barnacles of sailing. It makes me even more impressed by our three full-time sailing crew of women that live for this lifestyle and make it look so easy and graceful. It also makes me laugh at myself and recall my Dad joking about my lack of grace even after he paid for 5 years of ballet lessons in my youth.
At night the big mountains of waves are so incredible beautiful. Stars light up the night sky and the water turns an almost blackish blue. The waves that strike the boat occasionally blast a bioluminescent glow made by the creatures within it making helming that much more magical than I ever imagined. It reminds me of a random kayak tour we got talked into on a dive trip my gal pal, Krissi, and I took in Vieques, Puerto Rico this past year and gives me a smile from the memory of all the good one-liners made on that trip.
While we, eXXpedition, are riding the waves of the Atlantic ocean, I am also wishing my friends back at home good swell and surf weather and sending you all good vibes this holiday season. First in, last out – Surfs Up – Get your Glide on!"
Con mucho amor,
Lisa Rider

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Where in the world is Lisa Rider? Making the unseen marine debris seen

Lisa finding plastics hidden at local marina 9.15
As many of our readers might remember, Lisa Rider, President of Plastic Ocean Project 2016, is out on the Atlantic sample for Plastic Ocean Project with eXXedition. As promised, here is what she has to say thus far on her journey.

"Making the unseen seen as it relates to ocean pollution and coastal conservation is as big of a deal to me as the ocean is vast. It’s been a life mission of mine since as long as I can remember. I often explain it as simple pride. I am a proud eastern North Carolinian, but with that pride comes responsibility. Making the unseen seen to me means bridging the gap between our coastal environment health and the significant impact on our own health, the health of our economy, and other things that some people consider much more important than the community environment as a whole. I often wonder if the significance to this is the disconnection many people have from the ocean and the lack of knowledge of just how important our oceans and coastal community ecosystems are to our survival as humans. It is easy to feel disconnected when the problem is not slap-in-the-face visible as it is when you live on the coast and feel the impact on a daily basis, after all, we are visual creatures.

 Being from a coastal community, the ocean is always on my mind. She, the Atlantic for me, has made me who I am, has shaped my career focus, sustains me, keeps me sane, keeps me fit and healthy, and keeps me focused on the road ahead. As a child, I grew up on the Intracoastal Waterway and found myself knee deep in marsh mud on a regular basis as a very small child. The highlight of my summer was playing with periwinkles on marsh grass, canoe fishing with my Dad for Blues and Spots, and heading out to the Banks on the boat to watch the wild horses and here my Dad tell stories of the local maritime history. Clam digging with my neighbor friends was something I grew into around age 8 and scars from oyster shells are prized forever marks that I like to call beauty barnacles. At age 10, I took part in a beach cleanup project for Girl Scouts and found myself hooked on picking up debris. One of our local swim spots was a beach on Radio Island, i n between Beaufort and Morehead City, and it was constantly littered with bottles and glass at the time. Now that same area is littered with plastics and cigarette butts. Now, as a diver, I even find man made debris on the bottom there near the rock jetty.

I learned to sail around 11 years old on small handcrafted dingy boats build at the Maritime Museum in my hometown of Beaufort. It was an awesome experience of channelling the wind and the water and getting a true feeling for channeling mother nature’s gifts. Like this expedition, it wasn’t all rainbows and kittens. I recall my first attempt at sailing which included flipping my boat, getting the mast stuck in mud, and using my full body weight to flip her over by leaning on the daggerboard. I also remember threatening to wear a football helmet due to the boom smacks to the head, but that soon pasted with experience. These experiences toughen you up, my Dad would say – he was right. Around the same time, I started volunteering at the local wildlife rehabilitator, the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, in the spring each year for a few years. There I saw first hand the impacts of litter on our native wildlife. Sea birds came in tangled i n fishing line or worse and it inspired me to do more to protect what I had the privilege to grow up and know as home. The following year, I learned to surf in Atlantic Beach by local legend, Buddy Pellitier, and I started to experience, even more, the power of our coastal environment and just how humbling she, the ocean, can be.

In high school, I helped a friend who was a first mate on an offshore fishing charter boat out of Atlantic Beach and for the first time, I experienced being completely out of the site of land. It was also humbling, but magical and strangely liberating. It was incredible. I grew up on flat bottom skiffs in the bay, canoes, and small fishing boats, but I have never gone past the site of land with the exception of the ferry over to Ocracoke Island, and I found it very different. The experience really woke me up to how small I was. A drop in the bucket, I thought. Each day I was on the boat, I had a lot of time to reflect on the ride out and back. Some days a storm would pop up and things would get intense enough to remind me of how humbling she can be. I experienced this later in life as a diver heading out to a ledge or wreck with no land in site descending with blue skies and calm seas only to ascend 20 minutes later to dark clouds an d 6 foot swells. She has a sense of humor sometimes too.
Last night, on watch, Sarah, Emily, Stella, and I were chatting it up about how fair the weather had been and how we might need to make up some speed in order to continue to slow down for science during the mid day and also keep on schedule to get us to Guyana on time. Almost immediately after these words came out of our mouths, her swells picked up, a dark cloud creeped up on us, we picked up speed to 16 knts, and it started to rain. Did I mention her sense of humor?

A check of the radar confirmed that we were in the midst of a small storm and we closed the hatches (not a pleasant experience for those sleeping below – It Is Hot!). Perhaps it was Murphy’s Law due to our slip up of fair weather talk or a gift of good karma from her as a thanks for making the unseen seen, after all it was not a bad storm and it helped us pick up speed and make up some time.
Here we are, 14 women experiencing the ocean with no land in sight on a mission to make her seen with hopes that if everyone could experience her magic, her beauty, her power, her humor, her no-talk-and-all-action attitude, and most of all her significance to sustaining all life then perhaps they too would work so hard to protect her and make everyday decisions with her in mind, with us all in mind.
RV Sea Dragon helm - enjoy the ride Lisa
My personal connection to her is obvious. Born with salt water in my veins, growing up with marsh mud up to my knees, a scallop shell around my neck, surfboard under my arm, oyster knife in one hand, and a litter bucket in the other – its just life. The sweet salty air of home consumes me with the feeling of pride, but with that pride comes responsibility.

Now, back at the helm with “Clutch” blasting in the headphones, we, eXXpedition, are on our way in the middle of this big beautiful ocean with no land in site and on a mission to make the unseen seen. “A sailors life for me…”
Con mucho Amor,
Lisa Rider"
Taken from