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.

23 December 2011

WISDOM RETURNS............To Mother Once Again in these Troubled Seas, these Troubled Times

I've just gotten word from John Klavitter of the US Fish and Wildlife Service that Wisdom is not only alive and well, but that she is back on Sand Island within Midway Atoll..........also within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument............AND, she is attending to her new little one.

She is on an egg and will spend the next six months watching over the egg and chick, once it hatches. Together with her mate, of course. They will take turns flying more than 1,000 miles a week to fetch squid, flying fish eggs, and an occasonal fish to feed the little Laysan Albatross.

She will return to the nest and take a bit of a rest. Then, off again to fly and feed. Like all adult Albatrosses, Wisdom can upchuck solid pieces of squid beak or plastic trash. but her chick must wait for a once only regurgitation between now and July, hopefully ridding itself of any debris that clogs so many young seabirds these days...........

Currently, I am working on two different drafts of a story about Wisdom and the ocean world she has inhabitated just about as long as I have been alive...........As I work on the book, I think back on how much our world has changed since the early 1950s. Plastic has replaced glass and in just a simple way, I remember what that meant and means to me. As a kid, I was kind of poor and got a lot of change by picking up beer and pop bottles along the highway. I got a penny for each beer bottle. Three cents for a coke bottle...........I can't remember seeing my first plastic bottle along the road, but when it happened to become all too pervasive, the plastics just seemed to fill the ditches. When it rained, they washed into the sea and now, our ocean is home to more than we can deal with.

Wisdom. She somehow moves around all the debris and has found a way to feed herself and her offspring without swallowing too much plastic. If only we could find a way to speak with her, to communicate directly............She could help us save the world. 

30 November 2011

Project SOAR Mapped and Soaring from Ohio

Debbie Charna and her SOAR Team recently mapped
Fred's travels around the world. Her room now includes this map and so, if you visit, Columbus, Ohio
do stop in to see where Fred might appear next and where he has spread his wisdom about
marine debris, ocean issues, and Papahanaumokuakea and other marine protected areas.

Of course, we could add here, a digital map, but it would be more fun for you
to see the original...........originals.......so rare these days!!!

While our project may not be the largest or most highly funded, it has a lot of heart and as you
can tell from the smiles on these faces, it is also a lot of fun to learn, teach, and share
in ways that will save the earth, one bit of info at a time........ 

Project SOAR has reached England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Switzerland, South
Africa, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, Wyoming, Montana, Washington,
Oregon, Midway Atoll, and other locations around the planet.

Thanks in large part to pro bono efforts, SOAR
continues to move people to act in fun ways..........cleaning beaches, making art,
teaching about recycling and reusing, and sharing creatively so that
plastic pollution may someday be forgotten.

Please see the December issue of CURRENT, 
the journal of Marine Education
for an article about SOAR!!!

And do be in touch to receive a SOAR teaching kit
so you can be more actively involved!  

07 November 2011


I just sent the following letter to Senator Maria Cantwell in response to her call for funding to help cleanup the trash washed into the Pacific from Japan, following the earthquake and tsuname last spring.
I felt like it was a moment worth leaping on to help call attention to the ever present problem of ocean debris..............to remind her and others the problem is not something new and that the trash from Japan, sad as it is, will not simply land on our shore and be easily dealt with in a short period of time.

I go to the beach each day, picking up trash endlessly...............sorry to say, sometimes I am a bit down and don't bother since there is so much to deal with........Tonight was the worst since winter storms have already arrived. With the cold and early darkness, it is never easy to have a good walk, haul off some junk, play with the dog, and try to make a dent in the endless stream of junk.

Actually, I had ignored a huge chunk of rope for several days. Tonight, I just had to remove it and it was all I could do to haul it up and over the logs to remove it from the sea. Who knows where it originated! Multi-colored, it had to weigh more than 200 pounds. No matter, it will not wash back into the sea where it could actually re-circulate in the ocean and find its way in the currents to Japan!

Anyway, here is my letter to Maria Cantwell. I suppose I could have composed a better letter, but I wanted her to know about schools making a difference. Schools like Sharon Buda's Wyandont where kids learn about their connection to the ocean even though they are a couple of thousand miles from the sea. And, for sure, Debbie Charna's kids who helped create this Project SOAR! And, Lisa Keller's students at Bush School where she helps teachers guide projects that make a difference.

All I can hope for is that some funding finds its way to schools at which kids can ACT not just read about issues like this one. Education only matters if the world becomes a better, healthier place because of what kids learn. I'm not saying we should put kids in the seats of bulldozers and put them on the beaches.......I am saying we could have kids designing creative ways in which the plastics and other debris headed our way is dealt with in ways that first, do no harm to ocean life..............How about it kids? Any ideas?  

Dear Senator Cantwell,

I just returned from the beach near our home on Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County. As often happens, I spent more time removing several hundred pounds of trash from the shore than tossing the stick for our Labrador. Tonight, it was mostly in the form of a 2-300 pound chunk of nylon hawser and some tires.

On my way home, I listened to an NPR report about a bill you are sponsoring to deal with the trash washing our way from the spring tsunami in Japan. The sadnesses visited upon Japan remain in all our hearts and that huge input of plastic, etc will be a serious problem to be sure. But I hope you are aware of how long it will persist and how it impacts the Pacific, wildlife, and people all across the ocean.

We know, based on studies, that the world's one ocean was already filled with about 50,000 pieces of plastic per square mile prior to the tsunami.

Here on Marrowstone, we receive trash from Hawaii and the distant west as well as tons from Seattle and Tacoma. I pick up several tons each year, including large quantities of bottle caps, and other items not recycled in Seattle.

According to NOAA, flip flops I find on our beach may well have washed away from beaches on Oahu or the Big Island. And so, it will not be a surprise to begin to find "new" pieces from Japan in the weeks and months, and years to come.

That is why I write. This trash heap will not simply fall on our shores in a single or even in ten or twenty events. It will not be an easy to manage clean up fundable by a quick vote and a rush of equipment aiming to scoop up and return or recycle items.

It is going to be a problem for generations to come. And so, I urge you to include in your funding, efforts to educate and involve young people who are already working hard to reduce plastic and other trash sources.

According to the USFWS, as many as one million seabirds already die each year due to plastics in the ocean. Whales are entangled in trash, sea turtles die, seals are threatened as well. All the while, kids in grades k and above are finding ways to solve the problem.

This moment, this pressing problem from Japan, this fundable issue can be a time when you and other lawmakers decide education is a key to the ultimate solution.

All that trash will be churning and washing and mixing with other debris for decades, if not centuries. Kids I now work with in grade school will be in college by the time good solutions are found to deal with the problems of clean up, recycling, and repurposing the trash.

Please consider ways in which you can fund educational efforts that put kids in place to help deal with the issues. No workers in machines can match the kids who think, consider, and act creatively. I know this based on experience as a biologist who works with them on the pressing problems of ocean pollution.

Kids have helped me find ways of dealing with ocean issues in the past. I know they can help you.

I suggest you help support projects at the Bush School in Seattle; Wyandot Elementary in Dublin, Ohio; North Kitsap Schools in our home state; Fishing Cove Elementary in Rhode Island; Columbus School for Girls in Ohio; and many schools in the Hawaiian Islands where the trash will first wash ashore.

I've worked with many wonderful teachers who can bring creative solutions to the forefront if you help them inspire their students to come up with ways to deal with this enormous problem.

I am sending a copy of this letter to teachers and others who can help you. Thank you for responding to the crisis, and thank you for thinking of it as a longterm problem with needs for educational efforts that involve kids directly in finding solutions.

Ron Hirschi

Project SOAR



03 November 2011

GLOBAL INTEREST IN OCEAN PLASTICS........Some New Literature and Research

Global interest in Marine debris, microplastics, and the overall problem of plastics in our oceans has increased greatly in the past few years.

For my part, I've been sharing the problem and potential solutions with young people. I'm also at work on a book about Wisdom, hoping her life story brings attention to the issue. She has lived through the worst problems related to longline fishing and drift nets. Wisdom also survived her early years on Midway when rats were a plague. A little known cause of death on Midway was also avoided by this remarkable albatross-- that of lead poisoning from paint flaking off old military buildings. As many as 10,000 albatrosses die on Midway each year from this ongoing source of pollution according to the USFWS.

Wisdom has survived 60 years of ocean and island life, reflect the positive and potential for other birds. But many scientists have little hope for solutions to the growing crisis in plastic pollution and its associated problems related to PCBs, PBDEs, and other organics that "attach" to plastics in the sea. The following is a link to one of the best sources for finding literature on research into the problems and potential solutions, from SEAWEB. Be sure to check out the report on biodegradable plastic grocery bags:


Follow their newsletter and you will be rewarded with a great deal of information on this and other ocean issues. I urge you to support them financially too!

Thank You !!!

20 October 2011

Fred and His Albatross Friend About to Travel

Always smiling, Fred is about to set off on a new adventure.

Debbie Charna and her students are preparing to send him and
his little Albatross buddy to a school......maybe in Florida? Or with new
Friends of Fred in Seattle, the Big Island of Hawaii, Kauai, or down in
La Jolla............all possible places where Fred will bring much news about
Papahanaumokuakea, Ocean Issues, and what kids of Columbus School for Girls
have been doing lately to help Project SOAR take flight!

Be watching CURRENT, the Journal of Marine Education
for a story about SOAR.

And, be watching SOAR to see where Fred Z126 and his little albatross visit next.

At the same time, be in touch to learn about the arrival of Albatrosses at
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai and, of course, out on Midway
and other locations within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Here on the mainland, it may be Fall, but out in the nesting islands of the Pacific,
it is a kind of springtime...........when our seabirds find a nesting place, safe
for their young ones. We will be hoping Wisdom returns to nest once again. To be sure.


She is constantly on our minds and in our hearts. 
Wisdom, the Oldest Known Wild Bird on Planet Earth.
Her story will soon be in book form, so watch for this as well! 

03 October 2011


Wisdom and her 2011 Chick/Sand Island, Midway Atoll
Both Photos: Copyright Wayne Sentman 

Note Wisdom's Red USFWS Band # Z333

30 September 2011


Not Wisdom's Chick, but a Laysan Albatross nearing fledging
Midway Atoll 2009.

Every time I sat down. Each time I tried to photograph or observe,
these young albatross would tug at my shirt or preen.........as if
I was also an albatross.

There are bonds between species..........any of you know how this goes
with a pet dog, cat, or bird...........They love us because we attend to their wishes
and try best as we can to understand their needs.

Even though it has been more than two years since this photo was taken, I feel
 a need to protect these incredible birds. 

As I write this in the early Fall, Laysan Albatross fledglings
are flying over the open Pacific in search of food on their own.
Some might find their way to our coast here in Washington, or down along
Oregon and California.

Imagine their ability to survive in an ocean world now so confused with
so much plastic. And, it seems the news cycle has passed that issue as
we try to find ways of working our way out of economic slumps..........

The baby albatross tugging at my shirt is approaching the age at which
it will return again to Midway this winter...........Hopefully, it has survived.
If so, it will begin a courtship ritual, mate, and raise a young bird to 
perpetuate its species. 

No one will celebrate its life. 
No one will name this bird.
No one will ever see it again as an individual.

And yet, here you are.........I was touched by this bird.
I hope you might be too.   

28 September 2011


Wisdom's 2011 Chick that successfully fledged this summer.
Photo courtesy John Klavitter, USFWS.

This is a beautiful image of a young albatross alllllllmost fully feathered, but
still sporting a bit of juvenile softness, especially up there on the head.

Laysan Albatross chicks hatch at a size roughly the same as your fist.
Two weeks later they are double or triple this as adults feed them
pretty much every day, or perhaps every two days.

The young ones learn to identify their parents as they fight their way out
of the egg, a process that can last half a day or longer. At the same time, adults
identify with their little ones by smell, but maybe there are other clues, such as
behaviors and appearance. Afterall, every Albatross chick does not hatch at the same time, and so,
feathering differences may be clues that help sort out young when adults return
from 1,000 mile or longer feeding flights.

I watched adults soar onto Midway, land, and strut to their chicks as if nothing
could steer them from the correct young one...........This ability to locate also
reinforced by a nest site fidelity. The adult birds nest in the same location for as many
as 6 decades, a fact we know because Wisdom has been raising a chick that long!

When the above photo was taken, Wisdom's chick was still a few weeks away from fledging, an event you may not fully appreciate without seeing in person..........

Adult albatross have these incredible runways around Midway. They walk then run, then lift off FROM LAND.............They take flight like a jumbo jet, quite elegantly.


I watched this take place and it is quite amazing because the young birds take a lot of time to
leave the island........At first, they make their way to the very edge of the sea. On Midway, this means
they pad across sand to a most beautiful turquoise lagoon.......they might hop in the water one morning, only to go back ashore for a time. Next day they might hop in again, but at long last, sometime in July for the most part...........they swim out into the vast lagoon surrounding Sand and Eastern Islands.

The young are occasionally, but not often, preyed upon by Tiger Sharks as they swim away from the
place of birth.

The fledglings swim nearly all the way or even beyond the atoll rim - the remains of the island perimeter..............and with wind assist, lift off after a long swim. I can only imagine they have evolved to do this because the next year or two will find them ONLY at sea. And so, they must have adapted over time to be able to lift off (with a seven foot wingspan) from the ocean surface, not from a runway like that used by adults.

We know Wisdom has been able to feed this young bird without adding a lethal dose
of plastic. We also know, according to John Klavitter, that Wisdom feeds in areas
with a great deal of plastic.

What we do not know is how she avoids the toxic trash.........She does so at a time when
approximatley one million seabirds die each year from this cause of mortality. Keys to
her survival will be unlocked as more and more birds are fitted with Satellite tags
and as more young people find ways of studying birds in the wild.

I can imagine studies of albatross feeding behavior using more
sophisticated devices than exist at present.........How about Apple and Google and
Amazon joining forces to equip Wisdom's little one with a cam so we can
follow this young bird through its own 60 years of life!!!

What will we report at SOAR in the year 2071?
I'll leave that up to you kids. 


26 September 2011


Legbands once worn by Midway Albatross.......Many died
of plastic ingestion........How has Wisdom avoided this fate?...... 

John Klavitter, USFWS biologist, has just confirmed the successful fledging of Wisdom's 2011 chick. Mother and offspring were in the news last spring when they survived tsunami waves that destroyed many other nesting birds on Midway Atoll within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Successful fledging means Wisdom and her mate were able, once again, to find and return food to the nesting island where the chick was hatched early this year.

Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird on earth is a Laysan Albatross. She may well hold the key to success in an ocean filled with threats to survival of many kinds.I first learned about her amazing story when visiting Midway in 2009. Since then, FWS and NOAA staff have kept me in touch with Wisdom and other issues within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, especially those on Midway's nesting grounds.

Wisdom was first banded by Chandler Robbins on 10 December 1956. He estimated she was at least five years old at that time. Since then, Wisdom has been rebanded several times, the last when she was "rediscovered" by USFWS volunteers and staff on 6 December 2006. She now wears stainless steel band number 1517-62900 on her left leg and a red plastic band Z333 on her right leg. These are the same kind bands worn by Fred and Friends in our project to help kids learn more about the ocean and how to protect species like the Laysan Albatross.

Chandler Robbins helped biologists relocate Wisdom after he had returned to Midway in 2002 to band more albatrosses and observe them up close in a setting where more than 800,000 Laysans sit at nests during the January to July on island season. The rest of the year, albatrosses soar across the ocean in amazing journeys that find individuals covering more than a million miles in a lifetime. Birds living as long as Wisdom might clock well over ten million miles or more.........who knows for sure?

When Robbins came back, he was so busy banding, he wasn't aware of the rebanding of Wisdom. But he later noted her presence in his log of band data and when USFWS staff caught up with him in 2006, they learned where he had snapped an identifier on her leg. Resilient, Wisdom was now wearing yet another piece of metal. A great gift to science, she was found in 2006 and fitted with her current Z333.

Laysan Albatross return to the exact location time and time again. They can find their chick by scent in an amazing search starting with a wing set soar as they approach the island...........They only move a nesting site when trouble lurks such as the invasion of obnoxious weeds.  This happens on Midway because of a true pest, Verbesina. I can attest to its tenacity, having pulled many stems while on island in 2009. Thanks to the USFWS and wonderful volunteers, the plants are being removed and replaced with natives that don't hinder nesting success. Verbesina towers over the birds, clogging access to adults coming and going with food for their offspring.

As for Wisdom and her chick.............She has apparently found a way to seek food in the ocean where few pieces of plastic bob and bounce on waves. Or, she is extremely good at distinguishing squid and the eggs of flying fish from bottle caps, strands of rope, and other marine debris. Regardless, she has survived and continues to give birth to chicks that survive to fledge. I am about the same age as Wisdom and marvel at how she can continue..........Our daughter. One child. She is a happy and successful person and I can not for the life of me relate to giving life support for new children every year for more than fifty..............

Think on this. She and her mate flew off the island at Midway from January to July, more or less once a week. Each flight was about a thousand miles round trip. They caught food for themselves and their one chick. They shuffled flights, sometimes stopping on island for a single day, then off again...........Thousands of miles of flying to fetch food in the Bering Sea. Perch on the waves for a time, snatch a squid, shuffle off to Midway..............Feed baby. Fly again...........

After 60 years of life, one would think a bird known as Wisdom would wise up and call it a time for retirement.............It must be in her genes to be one who makes the difference in survival. As any student of ecology knows, it is all about passing along those genes. That and learning in a world of change.  

13 September 2011


These articles recently appeared in journals, including the announcement of a proposed new species! Discovering a new bird on the planet may seem unlikely, but researchers are sure they have found a previously unknown Shearwater, one of the most amazing seabirds. Like Albatrosses, Shearwaters soar out over the ocean, clocking hundreds and even thousands of miles on feeding flights. The new species, Bryan's Shearwater needs attention.............Here is the citation along with two other articles:

Pyle, P., Welch, A.J., and R.C. Fleischer. 2011. A new species of shearwater recorded from Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Condor 113 (3): 518-527.

The authors are proposing a new species based on a specimen collected on Midway in 1963. This small shearwater's breeding and nonbreeding ranges are not known and the authors call for more investigation. The ocean is vast and research opportunities like this might call a young scientist to seek information needed to possibly save this bird from disappearing before we know much about it.

Doughty, R.W. 2010. Saving the Albatross: Fashioning an environmental regime. Geographical Review. 100 (2): 216-228.

I have to say I've only been able to read an abstract of this article, but look forward to a trip to the UW library to read more of what Doughty has to say in this review of the history of exploitation as well as  protective efforts meant to save albatrosses, one of the most threatened of all bird groups. Saving Albatrosses is all about saving the world oceans since these birds reflect so many of our impacts, both negative and postive.

Volter, S.C., Archibald, K., Morgan, G., and Morgan L. 2011. The use of plastic debris as nesting material by a colonial seabird and associated entanglement mortality. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 62 (1): 168-172.

Plastics appear in nests of many birds. Check out an Osprey nest in Wyoming or Montana, and you might see some orange baling twine dangling from the stick structure. Out at sea, many birds pick plastic as food, but, as these authors report, Northern Gannets gather great quantities for their nesting material. They studied a Gannet colony at which nests were found to contain an average of about 470g of plastic, mostly rope, for a colony total of more than 18 tons. Yearly entanglement in the colony ranged from 33-109 birds, mainly nestlings. 

As more and more plastics enter the sea, it is not surprising to see birds "repurpose" the material. Most of us can remember photos of those six pack rings entangling sea creatures, including birds, turtles, and marine mammals. Rope tangles wash ashore on all ocean beaches and so,


If you live away from the ocean, help out by cleaning a stream, lake shore, or other waterway. You might be saving an Albatross and removing rope that would otherwise become a hazard for young Gannets!

04 August 2011


Teachers, Principals, and Parent Organizations:

If you are searching for an author to visit your school, or if you are interested in having Ron Hirschi return to your school, keep in mind that Project SOAR has given Ron a great deal of new energy and inspiration.

Writing, Art and Ecology, Nature Study, and other projects mentioned on Ron's website, http://www.ronhirschi.com/ , are all available as the new school year gets underway.

Project SOAR can help give your school a focus, especially related to how kids and schools connect to their own community and larger watershed. No matter how far your school might be from a river, lake, or the ocean, Ron has discovered fun, educational, and challenging ways to get kids excited about discovery learning that links math and science, writing and art, ecology and action.

For those of you involved in any form or recycling effort, school lunch garbage projects, and community involvement with a park or other natural area ----- take a look at the art projects with repurposed and fused plastic. Ron is currently helping a summer school project find ways to help two malls find ways of redirecting their plastic "waste stream", already having had impacts in the North Kitsap County region of Washington State.

Repurposing plastic that might otherwise end up in a dumpster is a clean way of obtaining free art supplies that are also finding a meaningful new life as ART!

One goal Ron has for the 2011-12 School year is to help kids find ways of turning this same plastic into building materials, hoping to focus attention on the engineering interests of many young people. Artists, Engineers, Builders, Architects.............all kids can find ways of leaping into these fields of study by brainstorming with Ron for a while, then diving into an activity.

In an Upper Arlington, Ohio news article, Principal Tom Bates of Tremont Elementary noted that,  "Hirschi's visit was important for the students to learn about how their education tanslates to the real world"............and that he was particularly impressed with the way Hirschi interacted with the students, adding:
"What stood out to me was how Ron Hirschi 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."  (Gail Martineau. Non-Fiction author helps to integrate curriculum. This Week Community Newspapers. Upper Arlington. October 7,2010.)
Contact Ron at whalemail@waypoint.com for more information and availability this school year!  

02 July 2011

Thinking of Polar Places on a Warm July Day..........

VISIT:   http://www.clamer.eu/ for some of the best in news and original science on Climate Change and Marine Ecosystem Research...............

For a brief on what is being talked about quite a bit, here's an AP article that has been quoted quite a bit........If you haven't heard these bits of news, it is something to ponder on a warm summer day:

 Whales, plankton migrate across Northwest

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press – AMSTERDAM (AP) —
When a 43-foot (13-meter) gray whale was spotted off the Israeli town of Herzliya last year, scientists came to a startling conclusion: it must have wandered across the normally icebound route above Canada, where warm weather had briefly opened a clear channel three years earlier.

On a microscopic level, scientists also have found plankton in the North Atlantic where it had not existed for at least 800,000 years. The whale's odyssey and the surprising appearance of the plankton indicates a migration of species through the Northwest Passage, a worrying sign of how global warming is affecting animals and plants in the oceans as well as on land.

"The implications are enormous. It's a threshold that has been crossed," said Philip C. Reid, of the Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in Plymouth, England.

"It's an indication of the speed of change that is taking place in our world in the present day because of climate change," he said in a telephone interview Friday.

Reid said the last time the world witnessed such a major incursion from the Pacific was 2 million years ago, which had "a huge impact on the North Atlantic," driving some species to extinction as the newcomers dominated the competition for food.

Reid's study of plankton and the research on the whale, co-authored by Aviad Scheinin of the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center, are among nearly 300 scientific papers written over the last 13 years that are being synthesized and published this year by Project Clamer, a collaboration of 17 institutes on climate change and the oceans.

Changes in the oceans' chemistry and temperature could have implications for fisheries, as species migrate northward to cooler waters, said Katja Philippart, of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research who is coordinating the project funded by the European Union.

"We try to put the information on the table for people who have to make decisions. We don't say whether it's bad or good. We say there is a high potential for change," she said.

The Northwest Passage, the route through the frigid archipelago from Alaska across northern Canada, has been ice-free from one end to the other only twice in recorded history, in 1998 and 2007. But the ice pack is retreating farther and more frequently during the summers.

Plankton that had previously been found only in Atlantic sea bed cores from 800,000 years ago appeared in the Labrador Sea in 1999 — and then in massive numbers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence two years later. Now it has established itself as far south as the New York coast, Reid said.

The highly endangered gray whale sighted off the Israeli coast in May 2010 belonged to a species that was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic by the mid-1700s. The same animal - identified by unique markings on its fluke, or tail fin — appeared off the Spanish coast 22 days later, and has not been reported seen since.

Though it was difficult to draw conclusions from one whale, the researchers said its presence in the Mediterranean "coincides with a shrinking of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change and suggests that climate change may allow gray whales to re-colonize the North Atlantic."

That may be good for the whales, but other aspects of the ice melt could be harmful to the oceans' biosystems, the scientists warn. Plankton is normally the bottom of the marine food chain, but some are more nutritious than others. Plankton changes have been blamed for the collapse of some fish stocks and threats to fish-eating birds in the North Sea, the studies show.

The migration of a solitary whale and two species of plankton is not of much concern so far, Reid said. "It's the potential for further ones to come through if the Arctic opens.

That's the key message."

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

24 June 2011


I couldn't resist sneaking into a picture with Kindergarteners when
Mary Fox sent over some photos of our final day of installing the
sea creatures and more.........

You can see an Orca on the far left, a cool butterfly, jellyfish, and more...
from our fused plastic and marine debris awareness project. A little bit of the
rope and other trash is in view to the left and, of course, the old canoe!

Thanks to Del and Mike Harris for the boat!
It served well as a model for many of Del's beatiful cedar canoes
and now that Del is paddling on that longer canoe ride, I hope he smiles down
on what we created here.

In fact, Del would be happy to hear that our project is inspiring 
schools and at least one aquarium in California!

We'll call future projects "Rock the Boat"
in his honor!

If you would like to know more about how to create fused fish and marine
debris related projects, be in touch at

Rock the Boat in your community by
encouraging people to go plastic free, but when they can't,
to turn that old plastic into art that matters!

Have a Fun Summer! 

15 June 2011


Many have asked about techniques and materials in our fused plastic art projects.............Here are some good links to lead you to more understanding of issues, where to find plastics, and how to fuse.

The best starting point by far is at http://www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/ to find out more about the entire ocean filling with our throw aways. NOAA is working to make sure we understand the problem and they continue to add informative maps, best available science, and more. Also, they host conferences you may wish to attend.

I started my journey into making art from plastics much like a street artist in South America........His name is Jhon Jairo Morales Bernal and he was photographed by Jan Socher as Jhon worked his magic, simply burning plastic cups from the trash bins to sculpt little figures. Burning fingers, melting our throw aways, he creates beautiful pieces that call to mind Picasso. Primitive art. Simple figures. Basic materials.

I got away from burning since the fumes and danger of fire are not my style, but do check out Jan's photos of this little known artist at http://www.jansochor.com/ by clicking on plastic art over to the right hand side of his main page.

I hope you can get onto this site to find many many sites with crafty and artsy uses of plastics. Friend, Michelle pointed me to this site and it was here where I got some of the basics that got me fusing:

a whole lotta letters and numbers to get wrong, so please forgive me if I lead you astray........

From my experience, here is a simple way to start fusing plastics you find at the beach, in recyle projects, and other ways............as in our case at Breidablik, collecting bottle caps for over a year............

Step One:  Gather some plastic bags and shape into a shape you wish to make (fish, jellyfish, octopus, etc).
Make sure you have about four or five layers of sheet plastics/bags/shrink wrap.

Step Two:  Place the shaped plastics between two layers of parchment paper.

Step Three: Iron with a hot, dry iron.

Step Four:  Turn over.

Step Five:  Repeat ironing, shaping the fused pieces to make the shape a bit more realistic, tucking edges over to allow all the plastics to fuse.

Step Six:  Add more plastic to make fins, tentacles, etc, ironing between the layers of parchment paper until you have a finished creature.

Add bottle caps and other soft plastic pieces by applying pressure with iron, always remembering to keep parchment paper between the iron and the plastic piece.

Be in touch with any questions and have fun!

14 June 2011



Life is Good Sky Fred
arrived at Breidablik during our art installation week,
a gift from Rhode Island!
Already, Sky Fred has captivated one and all. His good work
to help with fusing beach and recycled plastics is overwhelming. 
Sky Fred learned much from kids and teachers, and his monkey relatives as well as
Friends of Fred around the planet.......Especially, the First and original,
Fred X310!

Fred X310 passed along much knowledge of coral reef troubles,
learned out on Coconut Island off Oahu, helping Sky Fred
build awareness for kids.........plastics harm so many reef creatures!

Incredibly valuable science, contributed by dedicated teacher, Jeff Manker
and USFWS biologist, John Klavitter, helped kids learn so much about
threats to Albatross........Here, Jeff and John band a young Laysan Albatross
right outside a building on Midway (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument).

You might find it odd they are by a building, but consider the tiny tiny tiny size
of the islets inside the Midway Atoll........that were nearly swept away in recent
Tsunami waves..........The Albatrosses nest alongside buildings, along the air runway,
and even atop trash that washes ashore by the ton.......and more tons......and more....

Like these albatross chicks, born amidst the trash of the Pacific........
Netting, ropes, legos, bottle caps, toothbrushes..........our throw aways,
washing into the seas........hoping someone will notice. And help.

Hoping someone will notice the serious sand.........filled with our tossed trash.
This photo, I took......2009. Midway, where my Dad cruised past in WWII and where
our ocean tosses large and small bits of lighters, rope, computers, flip flops, buckets,
toothbrushes, more lighters, more toys than imaginable........onto the most
beautiful beach on earth.

Where I watched, helpless..........as helpless as this baby Albatross, its
stomach filled with plastic......testing wings that would never fly
across the seas of its ancestors, the mythical and majestic soaring
creatures affected by our thoughtlessness.......until kids came along who care!

Kids who learn that baby albatrosses, like seals, whales, and more.....accept
bottle caps and other plastics as food.........Here, a parent Albatross feeds its young
by regurgitating what it has taken from the sea after flying as many as 500 miles in one direction
to find squid or other food........on the sea surface, only to fly back to offer up the meal.

Sadly, more than one million seabirds die each year because they mistake plastic
for natural food..........

Lucky for the Albatrosses and Other Sea life, kids Care so much...
Here, a First Grader attaches bottle caps to an Orca Whale..Like a
Traditional Button Blanket created by Northwest Coast Peoples,
She carefully sews the bottle caps onto a plastic mesh oyster bag,
shaping and coloring her whale in an outdoor art collage.

Saving the Seas. One bottle cap at a time.
One Baby Albatross saved from the potential discards of our coastal world.

All the while, other kids created fused plastic fish, crabs, jellies, and more sea
life to embellish their playground fencing.........along with trash collectected from local shores.
Follow this blog to find sources of how to fuse and how to build community while
cleaning beaches and saving the seas as we did at Breidablik!!!

Thanks to Librarain, Mary Fox for spearheading 
Jump Off Joe to the Sea Art Project
and to the parents, teachers, and students
of Breidablik Elementary.
Special thanks as well to the Cleavers, and to Dr. Gail Davis!

As always, Thanks to the USFWS, NOAA, and 
State of Hawaii for hosting me on a journey begun at
Midway in 2009 with friends of Fred, Jeff Manker, Linda Schubert,
Annie Bell, and young Trevor, and the rest of the PAA team!

Visit all sites to do with Papahanaumokuakea for more about
the islands and life in the Northwestern reaches of what we call Hawaii.

Malama i ke Kai i ka Aina 

10 June 2011

Breidablik Ocean Saving Plastic Fantastic Art Installation........

Just two years ago, I stepped foot on Midway Atoll,
and began what has become a journey with thousands of kids around the world -
a journey to find a way to a better planet, a healthier ocean, and a healthier future.

The photo above is an image permanently etched in my heart.

It is one of hundreds of young albatross I saw dead and dying
from accidental ingestion of ocean trash........Legos, Bic Lighters, markers,
toy soliders, and endless numbers of bottle caps..........

On coming home, I found an endless stream of plastic on local beaches
and began picking up as much of this trash as I could on daily walks with my dog.
I even found a seal on the beach, dead from choking on plastic mesh used in clam
and oyster harvests.........and miles of rope, hundreds of bottle caps, and a
constant supply of straws and plastic junk from cruise ships.


On hearing of what I'd learned at Midway, they started collecting
bottle caps and soon we started plans for some kind of art project
to share our concerns about the ocean and all that plastic entering the waters
of our one, precious ocean.

In the past year or so, they collected well over 5,000 bottle caps!
We also collected recyled plastic bags, shrink wrap from a wonderful local grocer,
and a whole lot of the trash I collect on the beach.

With caring teachers and parents helping out, we started making our ART -
our Collage ---- a Sculptural piece installed today on a section of
playground fence..... 

Complete with a Canoe too!

and jellyfish made by the most creative kids you will ever meet!


09 June 2011


Breidablik Students Proudly display their Creative Energy
and Ocean Saving Project........

After four days of creating fused plastic fish, jellyfish, octopuses, squid,
whales, and more...........These young artists completed

Believed to be the world's largest, barely surpassing
another created the day before,
This Shark is made from
Central Market Recycled Shipping Wrap, Penn Cove Mussel
Aquaculture Disc, and beach found plastics.

The shark is one of several hundred sea and land creatures
created from plastic that may well have ended up in the ocean.

as well as former Breidablik Students for helping
kids reporpoise a library full of plastic.

Stay tuned to see the installation of their creations
on the Playground fence! The project now includes a reporpoised canoe,
fishing equipment, and two years of beach trash collected on local shores.

07 May 2011


Fred Z126 During Meeting with Smokey The Bear

You are probably as surprised as Fred.....to see that Smokey is actually quite small.
Fred met with Smokey after a brief tour of National Forest Watersheds of Hood Canal
this past week. Fred met with Smokey to begin negotiations on a new Watershed Campaign,
letting people know that Smoking, Cigarettes, Lighters
and other fire related issues are probably more important issues
today than forest fires............at least for our oceans!!!!!!!!!

Smokey has done a good job. No doubt about it. And in doing some research,
we have learned that Bambi was originally enlisted to help the Forest Service
get the word out about fire danger. 

Imagine if Smokey the Bear and Bambi shouted out to the world,
letting everyone know that cigarette butts are one of, if not the most
common forms of ocean pollution!

Apparently, scientists have discovered that cigarette butts kill fish.

We also know that lighters these days are tossed into the sea
at an alarming rate, washing onto beaches or being snatched by Albatrosses and Fish,
killing by choking..............

Fred hopes to enlist Bambi and Smokey since, like Fred,  
there are many many Bambis and many many Smokeys!!!
All with the same name!!!

Imagine that!

Imagine too, a time when Fred and Friends, Smokey and Bambi
appear on TV, helping kids help forests be free of fires
while at the same time
helping the ocean being free of cigarette butts, lighters, and the
caustic debris that washes into rivers and seas from fires on land!



28 April 2011


marrowstone island april 27 2011

This may not be the most exciting whale photo you have seen.........but then,
it might be one of the most amazing in that I took this photo while standing on the beach
no more than 100 feet from this Gray Whale as it fed in the shallows
off East Beach County Park, Marrowstone Island........

This has been an incredible week for whale watching here, taking my mind
in new directions as I walk the beach and pick up trash that may be killing
these amazing creatures.........

First, there was a Humpback last Wednesday, cruising up the east shore in the early
morning.......then there was a Gray Whale and several Harbor Porpoises three days ago.

Then, this Gray Whale decided to root around in the sand flats where I often walk at
lower tides..........Can't wait to see what the whale created in the flat as it continually
rolled, and dug into the sand, tossing up shrimp and, no doubt, the many sandlance
that burrow here as if these fish thought they were clams?

I took several photos of its flippers and tail that was heavily scarred and had a chunk
torn away..........Cascadia Research is now checking those photos to try to identify
this individual.........Will keep you posted if any news on where this Gray Whale
might have traveled in recent months and years.

In the meantime, there are orcas in the vicinity, but I keep missing them!
Friends watched them kill a sea lion recently, down on Marrowstone Point and
I found a harbor seal washed ashore shortly after the whales had been
on the prowl..........The whales had apparently tossed it around too.......

See the Orca Network Website and Facebook images for
spectacular images of what was likely the Humpback we saw
last week here on Marrowstone.

The Humpbacks are returning from Hawaii
and returning in numbers as their population recovers from
whaling days not all that long ago........

It is so good to see these whales, to watch them spray their breath into 
the same air we breathe........ 

12 April 2011



Kids at Breidablik have taught me a great deal about staying with a project.
They've been collecting bottle caps now for two years,
waiting for just the right way to use them.

They are now collecting plastic bags
because we have settled on our Playful Project on their Playground Fence.

The "Queen Fish" on the right is made from fused plastic bags.
The Sawfish body part is from an actual Sawfish, Thanks to my Cousin Tom!
The stingray tail, far left is also from Tom's vast sealife collection.
The lumpy looking plastic is a fused RePorpoised art piece
in its early stages.....

See an earlier post for instructions and ingredients of some of our first
Reporpoised Fish made from beach plastics and other

Keep checking back to see our project as it continues to grow
as we discover new ways of RePorpoising.

Remember Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle..........?

I much prefer RePorpoise, Restore, and Remember the Ocean!

Thanks to all the Breidablik staff, parents, and students for
helping our area and the more distant ocean world
where Albatrosses Soar......
Every piece of plastic you RePorpoise
helps saves the seas!

04 April 2011


Nene with two chicks.
Kauai. November 2010.

Not all that long ago, Nene, the State Bird of Hawaii,
were thought to be in danger of extinction.
Thanks to captive breeding in England and on the mainland,
as well as to forward thinking biologists like Paul Banko,
The Nene is surviving, especially on Kauai.........


 Little by Little, the main Hawaiian Islands
are becoming carbon copies of the mainland.
IZ sang about this and anyone with a sense of place in the islands
knows full well that freeways and stop lights
along with Walmarts, Costcos, and Timeshare Condos
spell doom for native plants and animals as well as 
the island way of life........

Nene have survived on Kauai because of land use restrictions
and because of the lack of serious predation by mongoose and because
native vegetation still thrives in places where the geese need habitat for
raising their young.

Dogs, Cats, Mongoose.......all these are threats on other islands.

When these predators are kept away
 good quality NATIVE PLANT HABITAT is present, Nene thrive.

Ironically, Nene also inhabit golf courses and some urbanizing areas
where people actually feed them.........not to be widely publicized for sure,
but these little geese can live in our presence if we pay attention to basic needs.
But just like golf courses anywhere on earth, careful consideration needs to be
aimed at maintaining native plantings and healthy riparian vegetation (streamside,
pondside, and oceanside plants that include nene food sources such as
ohelo and pukiawe). 

I photographed the Nene above at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
But, I saw my first Nene down at what eventually became the
Poipu Bay Golf Course.........I see them now along the
bluffs and open dry lowlands
above Moloa'a Bay and Larsen's Beach
where Laysan Albatross also nest.........

If you visit Kauai, make sure you stop at the Kilauea Point NWR.
Take a look at the banding of the Nene.
Just like Monk Seals, these bands help researchers and
curious naturalists
learn more about these animals.

While on Kauai, chances are good you will see
Whales, Dolphins, Nene, Albatross (winter only), and
Monk Seals.........You might be surprised when and where
you encounter these birds and mammals, often at very crowded shores.
This is because habitat is present and, so far, human disturbances
have not reached levels beyond which that habitat value is lost to wild creatures.

No matter where you stand on earth, some creature is missing or much
reduced in numbers. Their presence or absence is what makes for the beauty
of all life.........Bringing back a single plant or animal, or protecting those
holding on in fragile ways........This is what we can do with and for our children.

Just last night, I watched a pair of Canada Geese working on their nesting area.
Not all that long ago, they were like the Nene, gone from much of our mainland.
Now, many of you will probably say Canada Geese are TOO abundant.
Wouldn't it be nice to say that about more animals!


This is Monk Seal T12, photographed last fall at the very northern end of
Aliomanu Bay, just as it bumps into a point of rocks.
I'd posted this photo and remember so well that morning.
The seal was bothered by a buoy, free floating along with much more trash.....

This morning, I got word of a sighting of T12 on Kauai down on
Waipouli Beach!!!!!

for many reasons.

Thanks to Brenda Becker and other scientists,
Monk Seals are tagged, identifying them so that we can all help with research.

Monk Seals are among the rarest mammals on the planet
and some believe they have no chance to survive...........


While the overall population of monk seals is declining
(at 4% per year in the NW Hawaiian Islands),
many more people are out there, cleaning beaches,
helping the survival rate increase, especially in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Entanglement in nets, fishing gear, and other debris is a killer,
so any time you remove plastics from a beach, anywhere leading to the Pacific,


In 2009 two pups were born on Kauai, 1 on Oahu, 4 on Molokai, and 1 on Maui.

I will give you an update soon and share other photos of T12 and other
Monk Seals you might also get to know and to help!

Thanks for any comments, especially if you see a Monk Seal
Begin or Continue a Pacific Ocean Beach Cleanup!

As for me.........I think I will make a seal from the plastic stash
collected over the weekend......Thanks to Ray Lowrie for bringing by
a bag full of plastic bags his newpaper comes in each morning.....and to
Central Market Staff for the great plastic film
they tear from pallets of frozen food.

There is a lot of quite beautiful plastic waiting to be repurposed and in so doing,
to save a seal.........or albatross.........or who knows, someone
sitting right next to you.........


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.