Latest Expedition Journal
November 2: Day 31
I’m 32 years old. I’m married to my best friend and the most intelligent, witty, kind and generous person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I’m gainfully employed at one of the most prominent companies in the world. I drive a nice car and have a beautiful dog. I’ve checked all of the boxes and from the outside looking in, it appears pretty comfortable.
So it might come as a surprise to hear that about six weeks ago while driving to a friend’s wedding, I hit the lowest point in my life. I believe they call it rock bottom. As the walls of loneliness, confusion and emptiness closed in around me, I experienced my very first panic attack.
One week later I stepped aboard the 134’ Brigantine SSV Robert C. Seamans to join the 38-strong plastics research expedition team and began my own “Eat, Pray, Love” quest. Over the last four weeks my shipmates and I have spent our days and nights collecting data on plastic pollution in the North Pacific Ocean gyre in an attempt to better understand the extent and effects of plastic debris.
If you read some of the other posts or viewed our videos then you no doubt learned we are a diverse and spirited crew united by our passion for the ocean. Many of my shipmates are talented musicians who play a variety of instruments, including the banjo, guitar, spoons, harmonica and even a bass fashioned from bucket, broomstick and bolt. The raucous music played this evening inspired a curious Minke whale to circle the ship for close to an hour. As the evening came to a close with the sun setting on our bow, I realized that rarely have I felt so at ease, at peace, as I have on this journey.
The old adage ‘great things come in three’ has definitely proven true aboard the Seamans. I’ve had three teachers in my quest.
The first is one to which we all have access, the Ocean (or nature):
Her lesson is pretty straightforward: respect her and you’ll survive. As we pick through thousands of pieces of plastic, we see firsthand the resiliency of our waters and marine life. Although we don’t yet understand the consequences of plastic pollution, if we continue to disrespect her by disposing of our trash into her waters, we will no doubt jeopardize thousands of oceanic species and eventually our own survival.
The second teacher is the SSV Robert C. Seamans:
The Captain told us early in the trip “...listen to the boat and she’ll tell you what’s wrong”. She might not be able to be able to peer into my soul but as I washed hers, she taught me to be patient. To listen. To be observant. She reminded me that there is something incredibly satisfying about working with my hands. As they swelled with blisters, I once again felt pride in my work whether it was helping to raise a sail with my watchmates or counting plastic from the latest net tow.
She taught me that it takes a community to be successful, “Ship, Shipmates, Self”. Working under sometimes-stressful conditions and very little sleep, I couldn’t have achieved even the most simple of objectives without my ship and shipmates, which takes me to my final teacher.
The third teacher, my shipmates, of course:
I’ve been afforded the opportunity to work alongside 38 tremendously strong, intelligent and passionate individuals over the last few weeks. They reminded me that it’s the little things that count. That money can’t buy happiness. That success is subjective and happiness is more important. As our cruise comes to a close, with one week left to port, many questions remain unanswered. I’ll take the lessons learned and the experiences shared to start anew.