Day 1 - Ringstead, Into the plastic unknown

Saturday 1st April 2017

After hours of monotonous motorways, we could feel we were close to the ocean. The suspense built until we crested a hill revealing a spectacular view of sleepy Ringstead village perched on low cliffs above a sparkling bay; a vista of shades greens and blues enriched by the glorious early spring sunshine. We pulled into the car park of The Kiosk, a lovely little shop with very friendly staff who offered a wealth of knowledge of local beach cleans. We were, however, dismayed to see that some of the items they stocked, for example plastic fishing beads, were among the things we found so often on the beach.

Our first view of Ringstead valley and the ocean!

Our first view of Ringstead valley and the ocean!

Making our way along the pebbly beach we found our survey site past some rather forlorn remains of an old World War II pillbox. We had the beach largely to ourselves, save for a group of surfers sitting out in the sparkling blue. However, ever observant of our Civil Aviation Authority protocols we demarcated the survey site and positioned ourselves to advise any beach goers to keep clear.

Beads and floats for fishing lines sold in a shop by the sea, all too often these end up washed up on beaches.

Beads and floats for fishing lines sold in a shop by the sea, all too often these end up washed up on beaches.

So, ready for our first survey of the trip, we launched our survey drone to fly its pre-programmed flight path. As this is an automated flight, Pete left to meet the beach clean team back at the kiosk, leaving Ellie to monitor the flight and landing. This is when we would come just centimetres from packing our bags for home just 2 hours and 181 miles into our 3,200 mile trip, were it not for Ellie’s quick reaction and skill. Midway through the survey, the drone encountered a programming issue, but rather than return safely to its home position, it heading out over breaking surf, and perhaps in realisation of the hundreds of hours of work ahead seemed to want to end its life abruptly by promptly and rapidly descending towards the crashing waves. Astonishingly, with less than a second before it plunged into the freezing waves, Ellie managed to convert the controls to manual and rescue it just inches before Davy Jones claimed it for good. A call far too close for comfort! We immediately reviewed the setup procedure and determined that the home position had been incorrectly set; an extra check has now been added to ensure this isn't repeated - if only for the benefit of Ellie’s blood pressure!

Otherwise, on our very first day, we were lucky to have a great crowd join us from The Scientific Exploration Society, who are kindly Championing The Plastic Tide’s scientific objectives. Lucy Thompson, CEO, with husband Jeremy and puppy Tumbles joined us, along with Sally Reid, Head of Events and Awards, daughter Olivia and friend Georgia. Finally Dirk Gorrisen, a machine learning drone enthusiast and long time The Plastic Tide supporter and adviser also took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to help us out.

So with our superb team kitted out and briefed we set off, Dirk and Pete using the Marine Debris Tracker app to ensure we located and collected all the litter the drone had surveyed, whilst the rest of the team tackled the full stretch of the beach and Ellie captured some amazing shots on her specially kitted out filming drone (a DJI Phantom 3 Pro).

Although this section of beach did not have a large amount of plastic litter, we did find a large amount of jagged metal pieces strewn all over the beach. Resembling rusty shrapnel, they could easily cut and injure swimmers, surfers and beach goers. It looked like piping but we had no idea where it may have been from.

Golden Syrup, Carlsberg, Corona, Fosters, Sprite and Capri-Sun are just a few of the brands we found.

Golden Syrup, Carlsberg, Corona, Fosters, Sprite and Capri-Sun are just a few of the brands we found.

From speaking with The Kiosk staff we learnt the beach had been cleaned recently and that the eastern end of the beach suffered from the worst of the plastic tide. Further still, the surfers told us that because of the sheer volume of litter from beach goers in the summer they did not use the beach at all during those months. This is definitely, therefore, a beach we’d like to monitor in the future to compare seasonal differences which could perhaps help inform regulations during peak months.

In just over 2 hours we covered approximately 400m of beach and collected about 150 items (62 in the survey area) totalling 10kg! A great success for launch day. We were extremely lucky to have such great and committed company - many thanks to thank Dirk, Sally, Lucy, Jeremy, Olivia, Georgia and of course Tumbles.

Ellie, Sally, Lucy, Jeremy, Olivia and Georgia striking our best exploration poses.

To put the 150 plastic items we collected into perspective; each plastic item breaks down into a conservative estimate of 15,000 microscopic pieces or microplastics, today we prevented 2,250,000 microplastics from ever re-entering our oceans - not bad for a first day!

Super simply, yet super effective!  

Super simply, yet super effective!  

Roll on Day 2 at Soar Mill cove; if the weather stays like this we are going to have a fantastic month ahead...

#ThePlasticSkies #VisionfromtheSkies #ringsteadbay #dji #dronesforgood #suicidaldrone #dronegirl