We have fought. And won. It took us four long hours to bring down an orange coloured sea monster, laying on a beach in Spitsbergen. We did that for our Plastic Monitoring Project for the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Afterwards we were tired, dirty, and smelled like a monster ourselves. But we had it on board. Monster 0, Antigua 1!!!
It is the biggest garbage object ever taken from a beach onto the SV Antigua – and it probably will be the biggest for a long time. With EL Rolf Stange we had chosen to clean a beach at the Reinsdyrflya, and arriving there we saw that the beach was not too polluted. The usual fishing nets and plastic pieces were laying around, but less than on other beaches. But: There was also an orange subject, which was not easy to identify: A snarl of plastic and other ropes, worked into the beach, covered with sand and stones. Not a fishing net, more a rope fender. Something that would prevent friction between ships. It was 5,60 to 1,80 meters big, and it seemed like poured-in-place in the beach.
Our Captain Maarten surely felt the thrill of the chase when seeing this monster. First we pulled, then we used ropes, hooks, two shovels, an axe, some knives, two zodiacs and 15 people to get the thing from the beach. Long time it seemed we would not make it – but after two hours we had it out the sand. Part One was done.
How should the thing come on board the Antigua? We attached several fenders to the monster, pulled it with the zodiacs into the water – where it submerged bubbling evilly. So we needed more fenders, and finally we had the monster beside the ship. Part Two done!
How do you get a 1000-Kilo-thing on board? It took long, but after two more hours the thing splashed on the deck, were it lay down wet, smelling and orange. When you really want something, you get it! Especially, when so many people help together! Part Three done! For this success, Maarten gave out a Captains drink.
During the next days the monster was put into pieces, so it won’t be able to withstand long, when we wanted to get rid of it in Longyearbyen. Another hour and now a flex was necessary, and still the parts were too big to weigh them with sou 50-kg scale. We estimate, that the monster, once it was dry, must have weighed 750 kg. 750 kg of plastic ropes, which can strangulate many animals, which can be eaten by many birds, 750 kg of plastic that do not belong on a beach.
Without the guests of SV Antigua this would not have been possible. We had to help together and dedicate one evening of our voyage to this enterprise to make it, otherwise it would not have worked. Almost everybody helped – thank you!
During the upcoming voyage I want to monitor more the garbage in the sea, while we are sailing. I am curious, what I will find there, and I really hope, there won’t be a monster again!