Microplastic in Nordaustlandet

DSC02955Beachcleaning with artists – a whole new experience! The last two weeks we have been on a trip with a group of artists, young people from all over the world, who come with the organisation „The Farm“ to the SV Antigua. They took part in our plastic project for the Alfred-Wegener-Institute with big enthusiasm, and very different than all other groups we ever had!

Sørvika, Nordaustlandet. We arrive at a beach, that we cleaned the 10th of August 2015, not even one year ago. At the time we found so much garbage, that we left it in a big pack at the beach and gave the coordinates to the Sysselmannen. Now, after ten months and ten days, there are again fishing nets, lots of film plastics, white fish boxes and a long ship rope laying in the pebbles.

We walk along the stretch of beach. Behind some tree trunks we find an area, in which lots of small plastic pieces have accumulated. Most of the pieces are smaller than 2 x 2 cm, many are only few millimeters, and everything is mixed with feathers and seaweed.

Normally our guests start the beach cleaning with the big pieces. The nets, ropes, big film plastics. Until now, there was little enthusiasm for the collection of Microplastic. But this artist group proofs to be different than any group before: They see whole other details, sit down in the pebbles and start to pick small and smaller pieces out the feathers and seaweed. They do it with great determination and perfection. At a certain moment almost everybody sits in a row on the ground, cleaning the small area around them, until almost all garbage is gone. To clean everything remains an impossibility, though. It is too much small plastic, and many pieces are very hard to recognize. Many already have reached a form almost like sand, and are hard to distinguish from real sand.



During this work the artists contemplate, how to make this enterprise easier, and think about a plastic vacuum cleaner or magnet. We are very curious, if one of them will come up with that invention soon!

With the wind picking up, we pack feathers and seaweed and plastic in bags and decide to continue the sorting on board. Also the scaling we have to do on board for the first time, as the wind blows small film plastic pieces away. After two hours on land we take several bags on board of the Antigua, and after 2,5 more hours in which we sort, count and scale the stuff, we know: We have collected 41 kilos of garbage on this stretch of beach, amongst other things four shoes, the head of a plastic raven, the foot of a puppet, many nets and straps, and many many small pieces.

And not enough: Maya gives us a plastic sculpture as a present, which she built spontanesously on another beach, Adam gives us great footage of our cleaning, which he made with his drone, and they even do some transect measurings.

Thanks to this really enthusiastic group, we are returning with a lot of new data from this voyage. This was a real piece of art!