Greenpeace Beluga II Expedition - June 2016
The expedition set sail along Scotland’s west coast during the summer of 2016 to investigate and document the impact of plastic pollution in these coastal areas. Whilst discovering the wonder of marine environments, it was perceived that the plastic pollution expected to be found, would not only be seen by those present on the expedition, but also by the entire Greenpeace community and wider audiences, inspiring us to continue to take action together on this issue.
In addition to bringing on board documentary photographers and filmmakers, we invited artist Mandy Barker collaborate with us and join the expedition. Mandy’s award-winning conceptual photography depicts ocean plastics in fascinating and attractive compositions that provide new depths to our understanding of the issue, and the need for immediate action to #EndOceanPlastics.
“Walking through Glencoe I got the call from the Greenpeace team to say that sailing conditions were perfect, and asking if I could join the Beluga expedition a day early. I quickly made it up to Mallaig, and within an hour I was on the RHIB transfer boat. I was lucky enough to be speed past the Isle of Skye, alongside dolphins, puffins, and guillemots, and eagerly awaited my first glimpse of the Beluga II, my home for the next four days. Rounding the corner of the isle of Rùm did not disappoint – in a perfectly calm sea the Beluga II presented herself in all her glory, trawling for microplastics, which is why I was here.
Having an opportunity to visit the remote islands and inaccessible beaches of the Inner Hebrides, to collect and record marine plastic, continues my work and single obsession of the past 10 years. Photographing recovered plastic from worldwide locations to raise awareness of this critical issue, this time closer to home, was no less important. On board the ship everyone had a mutual respect for each other. There is no hierarchy on a boat whatever your role, so the next day when my chore was to clean the toilets, I was more than happy to remember this. I had no preconceptions about Greenpeace as an organisation and didn’t really know what to expect of the expedition. I was happy to see genuine concern from Greenpeace’s for our environment they seek to protect, and also manifested in the way they approached the journey and daily activities.
Over 3 days I was dropped off at several remote locations, scrambling onto rocks and climbing over into the next bay to discover new shorelines. The plastic I came across was overwhelming, from all kinds of single-use items; plastic bottles, food packaging, household objects, toys, and fishing related debris nets, and line. From major drinks manufacturers bottles found on coastlines all over the world, to a kettle, an umbrella, and even a toilet seat.
‘WHERE? – No one wears a watch’ is the title of an image I created inspired by the way the plastic presented itself on the beach in these secluded bays. The caption came about by way of coincidence, perfectly summed up by one of the residents on the island of Sanday, who commented on the remoteness of the islands in saying, “no one knows what day it is, and no one wears a watch”. Ironically, the very next day I found a child’s watch washed up on the shore. This caption not only reflects the human isolation of living on these islands, but if no one wears a watch, it must have ‘travelled’ from elsewhere. It is likely that the watch spent time in the sea – providing a metaphor of how long it takes plastic to break down – which can be up to hundreds of years – and also the time it is taking us to seriously address our over consumption of plastic and responsibility for its disposal.
I feel privileged to have been a part of this expedition, experiencing the wilderness of these stunning islands, but more importantly for the opportunity, alongside Greenpeace, that has enabled me to reveal through my work the vast amount of plastic debris that unfortunately can be found at these unique beach locations and to share with to a wider audience.
‘WHERE? – No one wears a watch’
Recovered plastic ingredients include: Disney ‘Frozen’ watch, trainers, flip flop sole, fish sand mould, heel of a shoe, HP inkjet cartridge, Coca-Cola bottle, water bottles & caps, water bottle with Walker’s crisp bag inside, straw, plastic forks, plastic cups, yoghurt pot, comb, lighters, LEGO, golf ball, toy tennis racket, kettle, coat hanger, bicycle tyre, dog ball, floor mop head, toothbrushes, umbrella, bucket, nozzles, torch, plastic shell, reel, toilet fragrance holder, spade handle, half toolbox, medicine bottle, cup, print stamper, deep fat fryer lid, football, building blocks, toy doll, party popper, U-bend pipe, scouring brush, gun cartridges, Fairy Liquid bottle, plastic duck, knife handle, various wheels, dummy-soother, crisp bags, balloon & holder, various filters, flooring, fishing related debris; line, rope, buoy, net, tennis ball, blue bird, vintage Esso oil container, handles, and part of a sign with ‘WARNING’ printed on it.
On February 6th 2018, the day before the minister’s statement: Stemming the Plastic Tide, the image was presented to Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, along with scientific samples of plastic recovered during the Beluga II expedition, in an effort to bring to the forefront the issue of plastic pollution.