Ikkatsu phase II – Daily report

Posted by Ken Campbell July 11, 2012 1 Comment 944 views

The following is the first in a series of reports that I’m doing for CNN. I’m posting it here as well, along with some of the photos that I took along the way, but it will be on the CNN site with other images and video from Steve later. It’s going to be a day-by-day summary of the trip… not in real time, of course, but still presented chronologically.

July 2, 2012.

The second leg of the Ikkatsu Expedition, scheduled to follow the Olympic coastline from Hobuck Beach to La Push, got underway today. We drove out from Tacoma through the on again-off again rain and drizzle that has been standard Washington summer weather so far this year and got to the Makah reservation in the afternoon. We didn’t get on the water until 3:30 PM, but since we knew we didn’t have far to travel, the late start didn’t come as a concern.
The rain began in earnest not long after we got out into the open water of Makah Bay. We headed south and made a brief stop on one of the north-facing beaches inside the bay itself, just to take a look around. Because it wasn’t a typical “collector” beach, we didn’t find as much debris there, although there was still a wide representation of plastic flotsam along the sand and in the beach grasses just above the high tide mark. (It’s strange to see how our definition of “clean” has changed over the course of this project. It has become quite clear that there are no clean beaches, just beaches that are less covered than others.)
Once we rounded Portage Head and got out into the chop of the Pacific, it wasn’t long before we came to one of the more drastic examples of a seriously polluted beach. After passing a few sea caves that had been carved into the rocky cliffs by centuries of wind and waves, after guiding our kayaks through the standing stone spires and wave-washed rock gardens, we entered a small cove that was completely choked with debris. The rocky beach was layered with fishing floats of all shapes and sizes, as well as a multitude of plastic bottles and containers, rope fragments and other flotsam. Because of the tide level and the exposed reefs that guarded access, we were unable to land on this beach, but we threaded the tiny channels between the offshore rocks at the next cove south and guided our boats to a safe landing. After hauling our gear and kayaks higher up the beach, we made camp in the continuing drizzle.
Once the tents and tarp had been set up, we took advantage of the low tide to make our way around the point to the pocket beach just north of our portion of the cove. Like the beach we had seen from the water, this one was covered in debris from the high-water mark all the way up into the grass and brush above the inter-tidal area. We waded through the heaps of plastic – the debris here, as elsewhere, consisted primarily of plastic of one sort or another – tossing some of the larger floats aside and looking beneath the beach logs to see what had been lodged below them. (My journal includes a rather expletive-laden account of what we found on our first examination that doesn’t need to be included here; that first walk-through was, however, a sobering example of what we as a species are doing to our planet’s most wild and beautiful places.)
It was too late in the day to do a complete survey. That would have to wait until the next morning. We had only planned on spending one night at our present camp, but the sheer volume of debris and the fact that the weather was supposed to deteriorate over the next 24 hours seemed to call for a change in schedule. With our bellies full from a fine dinner – steak grilled on a beach fire under the tarp – we headed off to our sleeping bags. The rain fell steadily on our tent flies and mixed with the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below us. The second stage of the project had begun.

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