Photo: Allison Timmermans
2022: San Josef River to Cape Scott
I’m excited to tell you about the 2022 expedition, the first year of coastline cleanup as the Lonepaddle Conservationists Society.
In August and September, I paddled approximately 100 km cleaning up approximately 15 km of coastline (that’s about 150,000 square feet of cleanup area) from San Josef Bay to Cape Scott. Six to seven tonnes of garbage was removed with 70 per cent of it being recycled and the remainder being safely landfilled.
The original plan had been to meet up with the Living Oceans supply ship and their volunteer team to bag the debris ready for removal by helicopter. But, like all best laid plans, this changed when the supply ship broke down and had to be taken out of service for the rest of the season.
I decided to continue on alone and added a supply of cargo bags to my already overflowing load of equipment. This meant paddling the 10 cargo bags 5km downstream on the San Josef River to the south side of San Josef Bay and then returning up river for the rest of my gear.
Log jam on San Josef River
The weather was stormy and tough going those first few days as I worked the north Palmerston Cove area and finished the first two caches. Among the usual piles of debris including hundreds of pounds of rope, 50 or more floats, plastic wrap and Styrofoam, I found auto parts, a propane tank (I found at least six this year) and a tractor tire with its rim. Sharing the space with the locals -- bears and other wildlife – added to the interest, and to the challenges.
One of the many propane tanks I found
While I was working on the north side of San Josef Bay I heard from Living Oceans that their volunteers and the helicopter would meet me on September 10th. With a fixed finish date, I made the decision to keep going and get as much cleanup done as possible. I had intended to return to base camp and resupply before heading into Sea Otter Cove and the outside waters of San Josef Bay.
So with six cargo bags remaining to be filled, I pushed on. By the time I reached Cape Russell I was beginning to regret that decision. There was no drinkable water as Cape Russell’s only creek was dry and I had to use most of my own supplies (food as well as water) to finish the area. Therefore, after completing 10 caches, I paddled to Lowrie Bay where the resources were much more plentiful. However, I was tired and knew it would take me several days of rest to get my full strength back and I was running out of time, so, unfortunately, while I had doubled my original goal of collecting two+ tonnes of debris, I was still disappointed that I couldn’t do more.
Arriving Cape Russell
Due to the helicopter not being available, plans to meet up with Living Oceans were moved from the 10th to the 17th. . I then made the difficult decision to head back in and return the following week with the Living Oceans crew and the helicopter to finish the job. After navigating two to three-metre seas and 15 – 25 knot winds I made it back, disappointed that I had to leave but happy with what I had accomplished.
On September 17, I joined the Living Oceans volunteers for a day trip to the Scott Islands, a protected marine wildlife sanctuary. It was my first time to the islands which require a permit to visit. There was a staggering amount of debris and, unfortunately, our one-day visit only allowed us to scratch the surface.
The next day, after a night under the stars in Sea Otter Cove, we removed what I had collected. Helicopter lifts come with their own challenges, and this was no exception. After dealing with ropes breaking and debris wrapping around the helicopter’s cable, we managed to get everything off – 13 caches, a large tire, 100 feet of PVC tubing and a weather buoy.
If you’re interested in finding out more about my day-to-day activities on this expedition, check out the posts I sent from the board
Living Oceans news item
Here’s what Living Oceans had to say about Lonepaddle’s contribution to this year’s cleanup.
Our newest partner in plastic cleanup, David Jensen, had planned to be out on his paddleboard for most of the summer, joining us when we arrived and staying on for the heli-lifts. As an experienced outdoorsman, used to working alone and living off the land, he was not to be deterred by the absence of the entire crew and supply boat. He just carried on collecting and piling debris, confident that we’d figure something out. David single-handedly collected most of the total tonnage we brought in this year; and he bagged and prepared lifts to the extent he could with the supplies he carried on his paddleboard. In total, he prepared or identified 13 caches of debris for our crew to tackle when they arrived.
David has recently started his own organization, aptly named Lonepaddle Conservationists Society and if you’d like to donate in appreciation of his awesome feat.
Photos: Volunteer David Jensen
Reprinted with permission. You can read the full story here.
Our work is not done
Next year I’ll be back on the North Vancouver Island coast collecting and removing as much debris as possible. If you’d like to support this work, you can donate here. If you would like more information, here’s how to contact us. We appreciate your interest.