Our week of waiting is now over. We did, however, make good use of the time. Besides the many small and large repairs which are necessary after a few weeks at sea, we cleaned the deck, baked, sewed, polished and cooked many delicious things with fresh ingredients. Some members of the crew made a trip along the south coast and undertook two other plastic collections on different beaches as a part of the Ocean Change Expedition.
As is so often the case on journeys, we met up by chance with an environmentalist from Iceland. Tómas J. Knútsson is an enthusiastic diver and founder of the “Blue Army of Iceland”. His goal is to collect as much plastic trash as possible on the Icelandic coasts. He and the Blue Army – an association of family, friends and companies in Thómas’ area – have been cleaning up beaches since 1995. In this time, in more than 200 projects and with more than 6000 volunteers, they have collected over 1400 tons of plastic. This is a remarkable achievement. Today, the extensive data collected by the Blue Army is interesting for science and research.
We drove to Sandevik Beach on the Reykjanes Peninsula to a section which had not as yet been cleaned up. Accordingly the whole coastal stretch was full with trash. We decided very quickly to reduce the size of our normal collection section from 100m to 50m. The sheer endless amount of plastic trash would have otherwise taken us all day. Altogether we collected 54kg of plastic trash on a surface of 50m x 12m in the swash zone. In this case 90% of this was trash from the fishing industry. We found nets, buoys, boxes, flip flops and especially very small objects - some very new and others up to 15 years old. The Blue Army, with 200 helpers, is going to clean up this whole coastal stretch on their Coastal Cleanup Day on the 15th of September. We are eager to find out how many kilos they will collect. Together with our partner CleanSeas.org we will take part on their Coastal Cleanup Day in Greenland.
Our two-day trip took us further along the south coast in the UNESCO Katla Geopark. We undertook further small beach collections, although the beaches, especially in the tourist hotspots, are cleaned up regularly. The landscape in Iceland is fantastic and we know now why so many sagas about trolls, elves and even hobbits come from here. The Katla Geopark is shaped by volcanos, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and endless black beaches. We hiked on the first day up the Myrdallsjökull Glacier which spans the Katla Volcano. This is, by the way, the big brother of Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano which caused significant problems to European air traffic in 2010.
We spent the second day wandering along the endless black beaches and tried to photograph puffins. These small black and white torpedoes with orange beaks are not only very good divers but also fast in the air and equally hard to catch in front of a lens. Puffins are drastically affected by the changes in the oceans and also by earth warming. Even if they are served as a delicacy to one or the other tourist, Icelanders hardly eat puffins any longer. Their main problem lies in the extreme changes of their environmental conditions. Their main food source on Iceland is sand eels and sprats. If these food sources become fewer or even disappear on Iceland, then the birds will have to switch to herring. They, however, are too big for the chicks to eat and they will then starve.
Back to the ship things are underway for the slip. Everything must be optimally prepared for the shipyard – suitable tools must lie ready so that we can continue our journey as quickly and safely as possible.