Home' Aurora : Aurora May 2011 Contents 8
| Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle | www.mn.catholic.org.au
TIM SILVERWOOD BAULKS before making
an uncomfortable admission.
"I've always seen the ocean as my little
saviour," the Newcastle surfer says.
"I just go out there at times to escape from
life and it fixes me in many ways.
"For me it's a place where I can experience a
pure and natural joy."
The 30-year-old pauses again and
acknowledges how ill at ease he feels using
a word like "saviour" in an interview for a
Catholic magazine such as Aurora.
Then he chuckles at the irony.
He recognises that he is now on a crusade
to save the ocean from humanity.
Last year Tim was a founding member of
the Australian beach clean-up group, Take
3, and on 13 May he will resign from paid
employment to prepare for a three-week
ocean investigation into one of the worst,
yet widely unrecognised, environmental
disasters -- plastic pollution.
On 7 July he will join a team from the
American-based Algalita Marine Research
Foundation sailing through the North Pacific
to do a series of studies into rubbish
that is floating on the ocean surface and
submerged in the water column, like a
Not only is this debris contributing to the
death of untold numbers of seabirds, fish
and other marine life through entanglement
and ingestion, its toxic chemicals are now
feared to be entering the human food chain.
"There are recognisable plastic items
floating on the ocean like bottles and other
domestic items, but most of it is plastic
fragments that the waves, wind and sunlight
have broken down into particles of various
sizes, that are suspended in the water to a
great depth," he said.
"I'll be part of a research group taking water
samples in an area between Hawaii and
Canada, known as the Great Pacific Garbage
Patch, that is believed to be twice the size
of France and doubling every ten years.
"The garbage patch is where ocean currents
from Asia, North America and many Pacific
nations converge, bringing with them tonnes
of waste every year that's created a swirling
vortex of plastic junk and plastic particles."
What Tim says is alarming and if you think
it's exaggerated, think again.
It's understandable that mainstream media
have paid scant regard to our plastic
rubbish polluting the ocean, as it has
been the subject of only limited scientific
study since the mass production of plastic
products began in the 1950s.
Plastic is often made to last, yet usually
made into items that we quickly discard.
As plastic is used to replace glass, metal
and wood, humans have produced more
in the last ten years than throughout the
And while about five per cent of plastics
are recovered for re-use, about fifty per
cent end up in landfill garbage dumps
throughout the world. A question mark
hangs over what happens to the rest.
Studies I've found show that the North
Pacific is among five "gyres" where major
ocean currents converge, and all of them
are now seriously polluted by plastic flotsam
and submerged sludge.
Increasing amounts of plastic are being
found inside fish, birds, turtles and other
marine life from these regions.
One investigation, in the 1960s, 1980s
and 1990s, found with each study that
albatrosses from the North Pacific had
swallowed an increasing number of plastic
objects, including assorted fragments,
styrofoam, beads, fishing line, buttons,
toys, cigarette lighters, golf tees, even
While investigators could not say precisely
what killed the birds they studied, it was
clear that plastics were likely to have
affected their food intake, weight and
In addition, plastics in the ocean act
as sponges for contaminants such as
agricultural chemicals, hydrocarbons and
other toxic substances,including those
known as PCBs and DDTs.
Researchers are now concerned that this
growing synthetic load may not only be
affecting marine life in the gyre regions, but
could ultimately affect the health of humans
who eat contaminated seafood.
"There is no scientific proof, just suspicion
at this stage, that toxins attached to
tiny plastic particles may be getting into
the human food chain," Tim said.
"So to help clarify the situation, some of
our research will involve marine samples
to be analysed for tissue absorption in
Tim's connection with the ocean, and
eco-system awareness, began with
recreational surfing in primary school
days while growing up on a small farm at
Ourimbah on the Central Coast.
It expanded as he surfed in various parts
of the world, completed an environmental
management course at university and
culminated last year when he helped
form Take 3, a community group which
encourages everyone to pick up three
pieces of rubbish each time they visit a
"The impact of plastic on the ocean, marine
life, and perhaps even ourselves, comes
down to education," he said.
"It's not as simple as going out there with
a big scoop and cleaning up the mess or
"I think we start by using less, picking up
three pieces of rubbish, learning what we
can do about those big garbage patches
in the ocean and having manufacturers
produce alternatives to plastic that don't
continue the problem we already have."
More information about Tim Silverwood,
Take 3 and his North Pacific research
voyage may be found at
Message in a
bottle By PAUL MAGUIRE
Southern Cross Hall
Street Newcastle West Phone 4962
it ble fund
841 Hunter Street Newcastle West Phone 4962 5618
Canteen facilities • Air conditioned
All proceeds t
tle Social & Charitable fund
All proceeds to the D
the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Social & Charitab
All proceeds to
o the Dio
d Newcastle Social & Charitable
Subject to ticket sales
Thursday & Saturday nights 7.30-10pm
Sorry, no under 18s in the hall. Prize money subject to ticket sales. Is gambling a problem for you? Call G-Line (NSW) Counselling Service 1800 633 635
Photograph by Tracey Edstein.
Links Archive Aurora April 2011 Aurora June 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page