Sailor's Discovery: 'The Ocean Is Dead'

Yachtsman shares ominous tale

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 21, 2013 8:26 AM CDT | Updated Oct 26, 2013 7:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – As far as first-person tales go, Ivan Macfadyen's story of sailing from Melbourne to San Francisco is more than a little ominous. The yachtsman's springtime voyage was broken into two legs, with a stop in Osaka in the middle; it's a trip he made 10 years ago, but one that seemed unrecognizable this time around. A decade ago, seabirds and fish surrounded the boat; this time, the air was empty, and in the 28 days it took to get to Japan, he caught just two fish. But he was not alone: A large fishing boat made contact, handing him "five big sugar-bags full of fish," he tells the Newscastle Herald. "They were good, big fish," but much more than Macfadyen could eat or store. The fishermen explained they wanted only tuna; all the other dead by-catch was returned to the sea.

"They just trawled that reef day and night and stripped it of every living thing." And that isn't the low-point of his story. After departing from Osaka, "it felt as if the ocean itself was dead." What he didn't see: the birds, sharks, dolphins, and fish that typically studded his voyage. What he did: an "unbelievable" load of garbage, part of it propelled there by the tsunami that hit Japan. He sailed through oil slicks, broken chairs, toys, wooden power poles, and a factory chimney. There was so much garbage, that "in a lot of places we couldn't start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That's an unheard of situation, out in the ocean." Read his story in full here.

This image provided by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows a patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 11, 2009.
This image provided by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows a patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 11, 2009.   (AP Photo/ Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Mario Aguilera)
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