SOAR has a serious side in its missions to help kids find ways of helping the ocean and watersheds throughout the world. I started on having seen hundreds of albatrosses killed by plastic debris at Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). I was inspired by the questions of young people in Ohio and by USFWS biologists working hard to protect endangered species and damaged habitats.

SOAR has a very fun and tough to define side.....thanks to FRED AND FRIENDS, Project SOAR helps with watershed and ocean workshops throughout the world, and generally makes people smile while they learn some tough stuff about how we treat our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the one ocean on planet earth..........


SOAR introduces young people to ways they can make a difference in their local community and the wider world.

Take advantage by:

1) Invite a SOAR learning kit or bring Ron Hirschi to your school as a guest author or speaker for your organization. Ron has many years experience as an author and as a biologist. SOAR adds another dimension to his list of hands on projects he shares in writing, art, and ecology workshops.

Many schools invite Ron for his work as author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including many with ocean themes. Others bring him to school as a scientist or artist, but the best fit is always when schools use Ron to help them integrate curriculum.

Tom Bates, Principal at Tremont Elementary in Ohio recently said in an interview following Ron's visit, "What stood out to me was how Ron was able to gear his activities and discussion and information so it was meaningful to the students, whether they were in kindergarten or fifth grade."

Be in touch at whalemail@waypoint.com for visit information.

2) SOAR now has a new kit circling the globe along with a Laysan Albatross "Friend of Fred". This duo is packaged with a box full of ideas, activities, information about Papahanaumokuakea, ocean debris, and other materials aimed at sparking new projects related to the sea. Also included is a journal chronicling Fred's adventures, all of which began when kids at Columbus School for Girls (CSG) learned how they could take action to help the ocean.

Currently, this treasured package is in the hands of The Bush School in Seattle.

NOTE: You might also be lucky to receive one of the earlier packages with a FRED and Friend, already traveling. To date, Fred has visited Australia, Switzerland, Israel, England, The Dominican Republic, and many corners of the United States.

03 January 2010


It is the third day of a new year and six months since the beginning of my work with plastic along beaches of the world. Acting locally, I've been picking up plastic along the northern shores of Marrowstone Island, Washington State, for about ten years but far more seriously for the past six months.

The two photos are samples of the past month's collection of plastic that I keep to show others. They are mostly pieces of plastic that are a size an albatross or other seabird might swallow along with some "interesting" objects such as the toy handgrenade and green "Speak no Evil Monkey".

If you look closely in the bottom photo you will see some sinister pieces. The white or clear pieces of plastic with a round bottom and flared sections are wadding from shotgun shells. When I was a kid hunting ducks, the shells were made of paper and brass with wadding of paper. Aside from shot and powder, today's shells are almost entirely plastic. The flared wadding appears to be about as deadly a seabird item as can be found in the ocean since it is designed to travel in only one direction - out the barrel, or, if you are a baby albatross, down the throat. Once inside the bird, those flared sides of the wadding will push out and prevent anything from dislodging, likely causing many deaths we do not yet know about. Time will tell if this plastic finds its way in large numbers out and into major seabird feeding areas. But, look at the following to see just how prevalent it is in the marine debris of Marrowstone Island.

The following are numbers of items within categories of plastic with ten or more occurences (individual caps, etc) during December of  2009. This listing does not include the many large buckets full of plastic and styrofoam taken to the recycling center. It is only a reflection of "smaller" plastic pieces or whole, identifiable objects:

FIREWORKS PARTS (Mostly rocket tips)     59
STRAWS     28
TOYS     16

In addition to the above, I picked up well over a dozen flip flops, 10 aquaculture discs (Penn Cove Recyclable Mussel Discs), hundreds of yards of monofilament, about one hundred plastic bottles, a pickup load or two of styrofoam, crab buoys, rope and netting, woven bags, and many broken pieces of buckets and flower pots.

Marrowstone Island is uniquely situated in the Salish Sea (Washington inland waters), receiving debris in winter from the high population centers near Seattle during south winds. We also receive debris from the West (Port Angeles and Victoria during strong winds out of the west. Based on drift cards I've found on the beach, some debris also works its way from the north along Vancouver Island's inner shores. The largest accumulations of debris occur on Marrowstone's northeast shore near Marrowstone Point, a convergence zone where drift cells bring sediment and debris from the south and west at "The Point". Orcas, minkes, river otters, sea lions, and harbor seals are often seen close to shore and until fairly recently, a kelp forest formed along the shoreline. Rhinoceros auklets, red-breasted mergansers, common loons, surf scoters, rednecked grebes, horned grebes, and murres are common but a decline in marine birds has been observed with puffins virtually gone after having been common just ten years ago. Western grebes have also been mostly absent.  

If anyone has information on seabird or marine mammal ingestion of shotgun shell wadding, please be in touch. If you have any contact with Ducks Unlimited or others who might influence an end to plastic shotgun shells be in touch too. Duck hunting is, by nature, a water sport and millions of rounds are fired into the sky with the wadding dropping out of reach of even the most thoughtful hunter. It is easy to pick up spent shells, but my findings suggest about one third of the shells fired are picked up (based on shell to wadding ratio).

Happy New Year and Please go
in Memory of X310.                                         

1 comment:

Ann Euston said...

Hi! I live in Port Orford, OR and have been picking up all these teeny tiny bits of plastic off our beaches for some time. Frustrating.

I was really interested to finally know that those cylinders with the fanned out plastic at the ends were spent shotgun shells. I picked up quite a few today.

I hope you will allow me to use your photos from this blogpost with proper crediting of course.

Please let me know. I'd like to post in the next day or so.

Maybe we could also link? I don't always do this kind of blogging (if you take a look you'll see I also do climate/environment and travel.) Still I think we're rowing in the same direction.

Good luck and Thanks.

Ann Euston

X310 Plastic Ocean Activity

It's me, Fred, the Monkey.

If you look closely, you can see I wear X310's leg band around my neck. It's to remind me of her. She was a Laysan Albatross. She was born in March 2008 and lived on Pihemanu, one of the most remote atolls on earth, now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

You can wonder about Pihemanu and about X310. She didn't live very long, dying in June 2008. Her parents flew thousands and thousands of miles finding food for her. But x310, like lots of baby albatrosses died before she got to soar the seas. Some albatrosses fly three million miles during their life. Like X310's parents, their sea is a new challenge in food finding because of our actions on land.

Adult albatrosses fly more than a thousand miles just to get a single meal for their babies. But the ocean is full of plastic. And if you read my buddy, Ron's blog and website, you learn about plastic in the sea. It is everywhere and babies like X310 die because they eat so much plastic, they can not get it out of their stomachs.

Where's all this plastic come from?
Where does it go?

Here is a simple activity:

Get up from your chair and walk around the classroom or wherever you are sitting.

Write down each thing around you that is made of plastic.

Everybody compare lists and make a total of the plastic products.

Now, the hard part of this activity:

Can you find alternatives for the things you use, alternatives not made of plastic?
Maybe start with drinking water from a fountain or glass or reuseable container?
Maybe start a really good recycling project?
Maybe make some art from recycled plastic?
Learn more on links here on this site and others.
Talk about times with no plastic.
X310 would have appreciated if people, just a few years ago had decided to make a plastic-free world for you....
You and X310.

Learn how you can SOAR with FRED by arranging a visit with Fred and his ocean teaching kit by emailing his banana provider at whalemail@waypoint.com


What you need:

Pint size plastic beverage container with wide mouth (about 1.5 inches) ---This approximates the size of a baby albatross stomach and esophagus.

Important to have the lid too.

Enough plastic items (bottle caps, toothbrush, legos, fishing line, small chunks of nylon rope, markers, pens, more bottle caps and even a few more bottle caps since they are pretty much the most common marine debris.

Talk with your audience of kids of any age about ocean debris and the way adult albatrosses fly out a few hundred or even a thousand miles to find flying fish eggs and squid for the little ones. They return to Pihe Manu or up on the Northeast shore of Kauai, find their young one among thousands of others and begin to feed by regurgitating "food".......

As you talk about this, have the kids place one or two pieces of the plastic into the bottle.

Replace cap with each addition of plastic. Shake gently to mimic bird moving around the nesting area a bit.

Remove cap. Shake gently to mimic the bird trying to dislodge "food" that can not be digested. In a perfect ocean, this would be squid beaks, fish bones, or other natural pieces of food.

Add more plastic, repeating above until no plastic falls out of the bottle when cap is removed (bill is opened) and the bird tries and tries, but can not toss up the mass of debris. See how much and how many different kinds of plastic can be added. Does the rope tangle with the legos and bottle caps. Do five bottle caps cause a blockage in the esophagus???

In nature, the upchucked mass is like an owl pellet and is known as a bolus. Natural foods slip freely through the esophagus and more feeding can continue. Most times, a baby albatross will toss up one bolus before leaving the nesting island. Unfortunately, thousands die because plastic blocks the stomach completely.

Your feeding the baby albatross activity can lead to a lot of discussion of plastics we use, discard, then find their way into the ocean and into the mouth of a baby albatross.

If you want to have a Baby Albatross Feeding Kit, complete with some plastic items that actually came from once living albatross at Pihe Manu, Papahanaumokuakea, be in touch.