In 1958, Don McFarland was one of four men who built a 9 ton wooden box and drifted to Hawaii in 69 days. Exactly 50 years later in 2008 I did the same, but used 15,000 plastic bottles with a Cessna 310 aircraft tied on top of it. This trash raft, called Junk, was intended to show the world how trash adrift in the ocean can travel thousands of miles. We rafted more than 2600 miles in 88 long days from Los Angeles to Hawaii. But in this 50 years the ocean had changed.
Don talked about seeing sharks every day, catching tuna and mahi-mahi whenever he wanted. On our journey, we saw almost no fish, but we did see and ocean polluted with microplastics. I can confidently say that if you are adrift in the ocean today you cannot rely on the oceans bounty to keep you alive. We have overfished and polluted our seas.
What gives me hope, is that when we create MPA’s, or marine protected areas, fish populations come back stronger. When we create legislative policy about plastic products that pollute our oceans and must be redesigned, we find last trash in our seas. When we care, we can change.
Sadly, Don McFarland died last week. Hats off to a man that loves the ocean, and knew a life at sea better than most.