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.

18 March 2012

A bottle, a distant war, and a Hungry Fish..........

Plastic pump spray bottle.
Found on beach along Northwest side of Marrowstone Island
17 March 2012

I've been doing a lot of sand sampling lately and came across
this piece last night. It washed ashore after several days of strong,
March storms with winds out of the west and north.

The bottle is unusual in several ways.
First, it is coated with a dense layer of Bryozoan colony, algae, and several
gooseneck barnacles. This indicates a long sea voyage. I haven't seen 
gooseneck barnacles on debris from local sources in a long time -- for example,
the many crab buoys I find.

The bottle has raised lettering, Chinese or Japanese. Will let you know
when I learn more.

Just wanted to post this in case anyone is intrested in learning more
about where possible Tsunami debris ends up.

I've placed it for now in a kind of shrine on my desk. It rests in a basket
I brought back from Morocco and tucked alongside a 
WWI emblem from my Grandpa's time in the Canadian army,
many of my favorite shells, as well as an old 'opihi gathering tool, 
a glass float from Kauai, and some parrotfish teeth.

A poem is fitting, but later on that.............imagine.........the parrotfish
dropped at my feet from high surf after I saw it bitten cleanly in two by
a huge ulua.....down at the General's Beach at Mokapu on Oahu in April of 2009.
all these pieces fit together and rest here so I can think about their connections.
The bottle, a distant War, and a hungry fish..........
I can imagine a young woman, holding this bottle in her hand an ocean away,
spritzing her hair one year ago........and then, it washed into the sea......
Just as I have wondered about the 'opihi tool..........I've always hoped it simply
slipped from the gatherer's hand out there near Anahola........

15 March 2012

As Seen by the Octopus

Marrowstone Island
Ides of March 2012

I went to the beach tonight to collect sand samples.
I'd scooped some for a project with kids in a Seattle school,
a new protocol, collecting where I first observe small plastics
to see if there is more nearby in the substrate around the found pieces.

I'd read a journal article earlier about PCBs in albatross
and found myself thinking of those birds...........mainly becasue PCBs are carried into the ocean by plastic, among other means.......As I was scooping my last sample,  I saw an eagle up ahead,
on something bigger than the usual flounder or sculpin.........The eagle was feasting on
a still living Octopus.

So, I leashed Monsoon and hurried up to see.......the Octopus was clinging to life, I am pretty
sure......even though most of its arms were gone. Its eye was so clear and when I touched it,
the body moved, elegantly as they do.....funnels opened. But so much of the body was already gone.

I've gotten to swim with these amazing creatures and have held tiny baby octopuses in my hand,
little ones stranded in tidepools clinging to me with their tiny suction discs.

But tonight, there was no saving this beautiful creature. The eagle had done far too
much damage and I can only imagine I was the last thing it ever saw in that eye.

If I remember correctly, that eye is much like our own and I do know for sure,
these creatures of the Pacific Northwest are not only the largest of their kind,
but also vastly intelligent. Playful even.

And so, I scooped up the body and shared with some kids and interested
island adults............I wish I could have saved this one.

Amazingly, in my life here on the coast, this is only the second octopus I've found stranded.
The other was just last week.........

To learn about our Pacific Giant Octopuses, visit:

Where David Sheel of Alaska Pacific University shares his many years of experience and much more!

06 March 2012

Possible Tsunami Debris on Marrowstone Island

Marine Debris. Marrowstone Island. 6 March 2012.

Crab Buoy. Rope. Mesh Clam Bags. Foam.
Blue Toy Sieve. Many small unidentifiable plastic pieces,
including one with Japanese writing............appears to be a piece of a
narrow fishing float like those I found on Midway.........but possibly a
Tsunami relic?

It is the small piece inside the sieve.

If interested, I can send a close photo or the actual object.

I hold it now, thinking of where it has been..........seems small consolation
that an albatross will not ingest it and yet, I am glad to have removed it
from the ocean.

Mana'o Akamai
The Spirit of Wisdom

04 March 2012


It's Sunday. We watched CBS Sunday Morning and a nice piece of
reporting about PLASTIC OCEAN's author and his cause.

Charles Moore will be sailing soon to offer all of us live views
of marine debris, including what is washing away from the tsunami.

Be sure to keep up with his work.

In the meantime, here is a very small sample of what I picked up from the beach
today............Yes, I was inspired to do a brief beach cleanup after listening to
the CBS report and seeing Charles at sea........

Our Plastic Beaches are filling fast with trash of many kinds, from many places.

In the photo, you can see a toy car, plastic hose of some kind, a straw, a Sunkist Orange drink cap,
a chunk of rope, a shipping strap, a hot drink lid, and a shotgun shot cup/wad.

It's easy to imagine how some of this got into the ocean.

My hope is that with more awareness of what does end up in the sea
and on our beaches, YOU ALL WILL find time to clean up a stream, pond, lake,
or beach.

I'm also sending out a complete set of  small plastic samples from Tracy McMullen's
2004 journal article study to Bush School. The sample was kindly donated to SOAR
by Tracy in hopes kids will look closely at micro-plastics and wonder:

Where did they come from?
What were these bits when they first entered the sea?
What impact do they have on sea life?
How can we safely remove micro-plastics from beaches and oceans?

See Tracy's study:

McDermid and McMullen. 2004.
Quantitative analysis of small-plastic debris on beaches
in the Hawaiian archipelago. 
Marine Pollution Bulletin 48 (2004) 790-794

I hate to add this, but our Plastic Ocean is lined with a Plastic Beach, one long
encircling strip of sand increasingly becoming painted in red, yellow, and blue.

Thanks to CBS, Charles Moore, and Tracy McMullen Page

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.