Day 5 - Widemouth Bay, A Vision from the Sky

Wednesday 5th April  2017

Another blessed day of blue skies and warm sun but with a remnant chill on the breeze for our survey and beach clean today at Widemouth bay. Pronounced 'wid-muth', Pete got this wrong so often you'd think it was an obscure word from some lost ancient civilisation.

Widemouth is a large expansive sandy bay, framed at either end by horizontal beds of rock with parallel grooves that look as though they’ve been scored by some ancient invisible geological hand. The bay is nearly split in two by a rocky headland that only cuts off both beaches at high tide, but it still serves its purpose well as the divider between Widemouth and Blackrock beaches.

Blackrock beach, looking south.

Blackrock beach, looking south.

The beach itself was the cleanest we had encountered yet. There were so few pieces of plastic we had to walk to the southern tip of Blackrock beach to find a decent enough patch of litter to setup the drone survey. A conflict we face at every beach; the hope we don't find plastic and litter against the need for it to train our algorithm.

The beach was getting busy as people came to enjoy the sunshine, so to ensure the public's safety we deployed stakes and caution tape to keep the public and pets at a safe distance from our drone operations. Beach users seemed happy when we explained what it was for and often they enjoyed watching Ellie and the drone in action.  A great example of responsible drone flying and what can be done when drones are used professionally and responsibly.

Ellie teaching tomorrow's Drone Pilots #VisionForTheFuture #VisionFromTheSkies

After asking our volunteers from the Widemouth Task Force the reason for the beach being so clean, it seems to be a result of a very successful mix of an engaged local community, organised beach cleaning groups and the interest of younger generations. 

The Widemouth Task Force are a group of fabulous local volunteers who look after the Widemouth area. Through their work and that of another group called #2minutebeachclean, there are litter picking points at each of the beach’s car parks. This has enabled local dog walkers and other beachgoers to do small cleans each day, instilling a sense of personal responsibility and making litter picking an everyday behaviour. Through this, a new generation is growing up around the beaches with a sense of duty and a shared collective responsibility.

The Widemouth Task Force, hard at work cleaning Widemouth and about to move onto Blackrock beaches.

The Widemouth Task Force, hard at work cleaning Widemouth and about to move onto Blackrock beaches.

With the help of Widemouth Task Force, young and not so young, human and not so human, many hands and paws made light work. We had our youngest volunteers yet; 3-year-old Jake and baby Joshy with their proud Mum, Chantal - Jake getting straight at picking up plastics.  

Pete conducting the safety brief to the Widemouth Task Force Veterans, human and not so human!

Pete conducting the safety brief to the Widemouth Task Force Veterans, human and not so human!

Jake our newest Ocean Guardian with mum, Chantal and baby brother Joshy

Jake our newest Ocean Guardian with mum, Chantal and baby brother Joshy

We collected at least 500 items weighing in at 2.4kg.  An impressive haul considering that the vast majority of the litter items were only tiny fragments. We started the clean at Widemouth and cleaned down to Blackrock beach. On the way, we found collections of the tiny nurdles along the strand line. It was while picking these up Pete unearthed a little treasure...

A Lego pirate cutlass!

This is an exciting find! Almost exactly 20 years ago, a shipping container full of 5 million pieces of Lego was lost at sea when the ship carrying it was hit by a freak wave. Ever since, pieces have been washing up all along this coastline, with competitions springing up of who can find the rarest pieces. The Lego pieces have even been found as far away as Texas, USA and Melbourne, Australia. Sadly, something as innocent and fun as a Lego cutlass can illustrate so perfectly the challenges we face with plastic pollution today and tomorrow. It is our Vision from the Skies that will detect, measure and eventually potentially track pieces like these.

Jake and his Lego cutlass, lost at sea on a yesterday nearly 20 years ago, found today at Widemouth. It is now in the hands of tomorrow's Ocean Guardian.

Jake and his Lego cutlass, lost at sea on a yesterday nearly 20 years ago, found today at Widemouth. It is now in the hands of tomorrow's Ocean Guardian.

It was for tomorrow's challenges that we presented our rare Lego cutlass to 3-year-old Jake, as a hopeful future Ocean Guardian, and because he really liked Lego!  

You can join the lego hunters on their facebook page

Summary of results

Widemouth was a very clean beach; we were told by volunteers and lifeguards that this is because it is well looked after and popular with locals as discussed. But, as any beach, it still receives large volumes from the ocean after major wind, tidal and storm events. The most common items we found were plastic nurdles - 80% approximately, 10% plastic fragments and 10% fishing lines and net fragments.

Total picked-up: 500 pieces (minimum),

Total weight: 2.4kg

Weirdest item: Lego Pirate Cutlass

Litter pickers: Chantal and her children Jake, Joshy; Anne with niece Kate, John, and Jenny with daughter Kirra. Finally Uli, Oscars and Joey all Widemoutth Task Force - thanks guys!

Find out more here:  www.ThePlasticTide.com