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.

26 February 2011


See the Award Winning CSG Students

The International Reading Association
has just announced:

Debbie Charna's Students at Columbus School for Girls

"Developing and expanding Project S.O.A.R.

In announcing the award to Debbie Charna and her students,
Denise H. Stuart, Ph.D.
Co-Chair and Literacy and Service Award at IRA
stated further:

"They purposefully put literacy skills into caring action, while developing
international friendships and chains of communication arond concern for
enviromental awareness and responsibility.
These young girls exemplify the kind of leadership
we want to recognize."

They have been invited to Orlando, Florida on May 10th to accept their award!!!

The five students have been a major part of what I have been attempting here at SOAR
and I have had the honor
to continue working with Debbie and her incredible kids at CSG.

In past weeks, we have collaborated with NOAA, schools in the Dominican Republic
and Israel. 

We've also started to explore ways of connecting whales and freshwater systems
by focusing on Orcas and Dragonflies.

Friends of Fred teaching kits with Orca and Dragonfly information
and educational projects are off and away to Rhode Island and Norway
where we will launch our first connection with a Marine National Park
in the Scandinavian reaches of the ocean.

None of this would have been possible without the help and inspiration 
of Debbie Charna, her students, and the many other
teachers, parents, and partners at NOAA, USFWS, and other agencies
and Not For Profits!!!


14 February 2011


From Fred X193
Just before heading out into the world to explore Dragonflies.

First stop, Kauai with Yumi, then on to Rhode Island and beyond.........

But first, a big Valentine Aloha to Linda Schubert and Ann Bell.
Thanks to both of them, Fred has a way about him not possible
without their help and sense of humor........
Fred's Cousin, X310 gotta lotta Aloha from Linda and Ann.
Fred X193 is aiming to catch up with all of them, sometime, someplace
on a planet not so full of all those bottle caps,

Thanks kids for cleaning up your world by removing bottle caps
from watersheds of planet earth.

Just you watch.........that heart can change the world. One heart.

08 February 2011


For those of us who came to know responsibility with the help of poetic music
of the sixties and early seventies,
These words ring. Where have all the flowers gone......Okay, Pete got alot of us
thinking as we entered our professional lives. 
In his song, as in many of his works, we might think about injustices
related to war and the hope of peace on the planet.

Tonight, I walked the beach here on Marrowstone Island.
Susan and Howard Berta of the Orca Network had sent out a note
to let us know there were whales in the area........And so, I went on my
evening beach walk and cleanup a bit earlier than normal. It was easy.
We had SUN today and Monsoon was eager to swim.

I hoped to see the whales, but when I got to the beach, a lot of military
boat traffic apparently frightened the whales. They were actually within
a reach of water I could see in the distance --- down near Point No Point,
a very historic place.........But then, they suddenly turned south
as the shipping noise probably interfered with their movements.
Sonar perhaps.........not uncommon and needed to be sure during
our time of war.......

Monsoon and I walked the beach and found a lot of mesh netting. We stopped a lot,
scanning the water as the ships disappeared only to be replaced by the
endless stream of freighters leaving Seattle and Tacoma.

No whales in sight.

I kept putting the binocs on Craven Rock to my south.

Sea Lions perched atop the rock sat without making any sound.

No seals were in the water. No porpoises. 

As it grew dark, I walked to the very northern tip of the island and 
began a closer look at the drift line where high tide dropped 
some of what you see in the above photo......... 

Right there, Tangled together in seaweed ---
a plastic flower and one Green Soldier.

Now the soldier rests on my desk with a blue one....
but this green guy fascinates. He holds binoculars, not a rifle..........
and, curiously, mixed in the very same tangle was a tiny plastic bag.

If you look closely at the photo you will see dollar signs printed on the tiny plastic pouch.

Where have all the plastic flowers gone? All I know is that some wash up on our shore. 
Some have gone to soldiers. Some float with plastic bags once holding funds of some sort.

If you notice too.........that tiny Earth squeeze ball above the flower.......
It was a gift from some young students......I pick it up daily and give it a few squeezes.
Printed on the Earth:

"Reduce Stress
on the Earth:
Support Family Planning"

As many kids say to me, this is what it is all about. What it comes down to.
There are simply too many plastic soldiers on the planet because, well, hey,
there are far too many of everyting. Apparently there are now so many
plastic flowers that we need another Pete Seeger to sing their song.


07 February 2011


It has been a while since I quantified Beach Plastics and so, yesterday being Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I'd hop aboard the competitive spirit train and offer you this. Here is a listing of all the plastic I picked up just before half time on Super Bowl Sunday at Marrowstone Point, along the eastern shore of the island from what we call The Goat Ponds to just about the tip of the point..........a distance of about half a mile. All plastic counted was washed ashore on the first high tide on 6 February 2011, so this is freshly dropped trash, mostly brought in on the tide after a moderate wind from the south (Once again, Thank you Seattle for all your trash - it is mostly added to the now netted Stringball, supersized on Super Bowl Sunday:

Plastic Lumber    1 five foot 2x2
Plastic Bags (clear)    15
Plastic Sheeting/film     19 pieces about enough to cover an average back yard
Food and Candy Wrappers (most very fresh and some with mints)     21
Other Wrappers     4
Bottles    1  
Tire Buoys  (styrofoam filled tires)  2
Lighters    5
Shotgun Shells     4
Shotgun Shell Shot Sleeves (the pieces that look like squid) 12
Rope     4
Planter   1
Fencing   1 section
Unidentified     10
Cargo Netting   1 piece (visible in photo above)
Toys     4 (frisbee piece, balls)
Fireworks     3
Bottle Caps     13
Flip Flop     1
Health and Beauty Aids     4
Ant Trap    1   (printed with CAUTION and listing of contents: Hydramethylnon, EPA reg. no. 1663-33)
Mesh Tubing/Bag     12
Balloons     3
Food Containers     2
Tool or Brush Handles     2
Tape    3 chunks
Glove    1
Buckets      1
Large Handles     1
Fishing Lures/Gear   2
Tags (includes shellfish identification tag from Skokomish Harvest)   2
Straws     10

Note that I only found one bottle. That is unusual for any time of year, but many of these are blown up and away from the high water mark, so tonight I might recover many more of these. The Cargo Netting was disturbing in that these larger pieces of debris are usually found in outer coastal areas and are major problems for marine mammals. When I was on Midway, Cargo Netting was a major part of the trash washed ashore just as it is on the windward sides of each of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Of interest too, I found a section of what I do believe is a rib bone from a whale.

You have to wonder about the ant trap and its contents. Rodent traps, mosquito repellent, and other liquid biocides wash into our waters, but how to quanitify these and to what extent do they enter marine foods we eat, not to mention the foods eaten by seabirds, fish, and marine mammals. 

Note:   My stringball receives only a fraction of the trash since much of it needs to be disposed of in other ways or simply reused or recycled.   

03 February 2011


Stringball. 3 February 2011.

On February 1st, two pods of Orcas snuck past Marrowstone Island
in the middle of the night......well, snuck might not be the right word, but for
those of us who enjoy seeing them, it works. They were heard on the local
hydrophone, then seen near Seattle yesterday. They were on the nightly
TV news late last night, thrilling ferry riders.

They are, as I type, somewhere just to the south of here. Some, 
according to the Orca Network's Susan Berta, down around Tacoma.
Others are headed north from around Seattle so they might show up here
in the middle of the night again. 

Sometime in that same time frame, tons of plastic drifted past Marrowstone.
This morning, I hauled 31 more Mussel discs off the beach, each wrapped along
a plastic mesh bag used by mussel farmers.

The discs are those round black plastic objects on the outer rim of the
ever enlarging stringball.........You can also see a bright orange crab bait box,
plastic bottles, rope, crab buoys (with names of owners), and a pink flip flop - one of more than
a dozen so far attached.

All this simply to show you what washes up. You can imagine what remains
out there in waters where orcas, seals, sea lions, fish, seabirds, humpbacks,
and other ocean animals are trying to survive in a world in which
their food sources are diminishing. It is no wonder so many end up
mistaking plastic for food.

See the Orca Network for today's announcement from NOAA
that allows killer whales a share in the harvest of chinook salmon - meaning
that salmon fishermen will have fewer salmon to harvest so that orcas
might have a larger share of this valuable food source.

No one, however, is talking about who should take how much of the
JUVENILE salmon population that will soon leave rivers and streams
and enter the ocean world where hungry humpbacks dine on them
along with herring, sandlance, candlefish, smelt, and other small fish.
Just a guess, but an educated guess.........Humpback Whale population increases
are taking a large share of the orca's chinook, probably a much larger
share than that taken when the chinooks grow to adult size and become
targets of commercial and recreational human fishermen. Not an easy issue
to study, so no one is able to work on this in a meaningful way. So far.

Meanwhile, plastics continue to enter the ocean in far greater quantities
than baby salmon.......And so, many whales will die from our inability
to manage our waste stream.

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.