A Day in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like to cross one of the most plastic-polluted parts of the world, you should check out this video.

Danish environmental nonprofit Plastic Change completed the last leg of its two-year expedition collecting microplastic samples across several seas and two oceans last fall. The final part of the journey took the crew from Los Angeles, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 23 days. Before that the organization had sailed its sloop “S/Y Christianshavn” from Denmark through the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal to the Galápagos, and then up to California. I accompanied them on their L.A.-to-Hawaii sail to witness and document what is considered one of the worst-polluted stretches of ocean in the world, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This video outlines one day (Day 14) of the group’s scientific research at sea, as well as major ideas related to the world’s plastic pollution problem. Mange tak to Plastic Change for taking me on board. 

Video credit: ©Erica Cirino.


©Erica Cirino. Linocut print “The Swing Tree,” 3/5. 2017.

©Erica Cirino. Linocut print “The Swing Tree,” 3/5. 2017.

There is no greater moment–no moment filled with more excitement and possibility–than the realization that you need nothing auxiliary to make you whole; the realization that you, yourself have the power to destroy and create; the realization that all you need and all you are lies inside of you; the realization that you are good: A sentient being with wisdom and knowledge, power and weakness, virtue and vice, empathy and jealousy, love and hate.

You are nothing more, you are nothing less. You are complete.

Originally posted to Medium on April 6, 2017. 


©Erica Cirino

©Erica Cirino

Emotional choice shapes emotional experience. The energies we choose to release to those around us are what we will feel reflected back upon us. 

You radiate
The energies
You possess.
Only you
Can choose
What to release,
How to feel.
Give love,
Feel love.
Give joy,
Feel joy.
Give peace,
Feel peace.
Give hate,
And yes,
You will
Feel that, too.

Choose wisely. 

The 10 songs you take to sea: My "Pacific Ocean Playlist"

It's midnight Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time, and there are two hours till my night shift in the cockpit is set to begin. I've been falling in and out of a light sleep in my bunk for the past two hours but the violent rocking of the ship, combined with the loud snoring blaring from a crew mate in a nearby bunk, is making deep sleep all but impossible.

That's when I grab my iPod and plug in, knowing the music may help lull me into some kind of restful state. I need to be sharp when it's my turn to sail. Our engine broke five days into the expedition and there's no easy way to turn around and grab a man- or woman-overboard. In other words, it would be really, really bad at this point to fall in, something that's more likely to happen if one hasn't gotten any sleep.

Back home in New York before I left for my expedition, I assembled a playlist of songs I thought I'd like to listen to when sailing across the Pacific for the first time. I asked myself that burning question, "If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one playlist of songs, what would you bring?" Of the thousands of songs in my iTunes library, I chose the 350 that could fit on my aging first generation iPod Nano (hello 2007!). 

Like it had helped during the previous 18 nights, on that particularly restless night 19 days into the expedition, my music helped me get enough shuteye to be a useful sailor on my nightshift. When trying to sleep with my music, I'd consciously listen to a few songs, and then wake up to my crew mate Malene tapping my leg to wake me up for my shift. I'd check my iPod and realize 30-or-so songs had played while I was passed out, granting me something between three and four hours of sleep. Grumbling, I'd switch off my iPod, roll out of my bunk, don my sailing clothes and climb up to the cockpit where there was hot coffee and black licorice waiting.

But my Pacific Ocean Playlist wasn't just for bedtime; it made appearances on the ship's speakers whenever the crew felt like life on our ship could use a soundtrack, like while prepping lunch or dinner in the galley. I also would pocket my iPod when getting ready for a shift, instead of tucking it into my bunk, taking it up to the cockpit so my sailing partner Rasmus and I could have something to listen to during the long, dark hours of our nightshift. Each of us equipped with one earbud, we'd sit at the wheel and sing along to our favorite songs, tapping our feet and hands to the beat.  

Of the 350 songs in my Pacific Ocean Playlist, there are 10 that get the top-play nomination. I've chosen to immortalize them on my Instagram feed, pairing them with some of my favorite photos from the expedition: