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Wahlbergøya beach cleanup results in 250 kg (600 pounds) of waste collected

by Oceanwide Expeditions News 06.09.2022

“There was so much rubbish collected that we couldn’t fit it all in the white bags he had brought. Instead, we put the larger bits of rope, fishing gear, and plastic directly into the Zodiac. We filled a whole Zodiac with plastic!

Ship: m/v Ortelius

Regions: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Highlights: Cleaning up Svalbard

Oceanwide guide describes an impromptu but important beach cleanup

We often do beach cleanups around the shores of Svalbard, specifically Spitsbergen, and they always prove to be a rewarding activity for guides and guests alike. On top of doing something good for the environment, these activities give passengers a chance to get to know one another during their coordinated effort – and sometimes even get a good workout into the bargain.

During a recent cruise, expedition guide George Kennedy led one such cleanup and gave us a thorough report of the event. Though the cleanup he describes was far more impromptu than our usual efforts, which are scheduled well in advance, his account shows why it was so necessary:

“On the afternoon of 14th August, I led a long hike of around 35 passengers with two other guides, Hazel and Jacob, from the southern beach of Wahlbergøya – a well-known walrus haul-out in Hinlopen Strait. We were hiking along the southwestern coast of Wahlbergøya when we stumbled upon a large bay covered in rubbish.

“The bay was facing northwest, with a clear view of Hinlopen (79* 21 27 N, 19* 38 25 E). It appeared that this beach had become a ‘landing site’ for plastic rubbish dragged by currents across the Arctic Ocean, funneled down through Hinlopen, then coming to rest at this one location. It was the most plastic rubbish I’ve ever seen in Svalbard.

“Whilst we hadn’t planned to do a cleanup as a group, we decided to do an impromptu one. The passengers were right behind it! However, it was clear we couldn’t carry all this rubbish back to the landing site, so we requested a Zodiac be driven from the ship to our location. We provided the coordinates over radio and, 20 minutes later, a Zodiac appeared on the beach driven by Ian the AB.

“There was so much rubbish collected that we couldn’t fit it all in the white bags he had brought. Instead, we put the larger bits of rope, fishing gear, and plastic directly into the Zodiac. We filled a whole Zodiac with plastic!

“We then filled a second plastic bag and left it on the beach to be collected later. The Zodiac returned to Ortelius, lifted up the rubbish, and came back to pick up the second huge bag whilst we were returning to the landing site on foot.

“Big thanks to the bridge and ABs who made it all happen. Once we were back on board, the expedition team went through all the rubbish and packed it in four big white bags (and cleaned the Zodiac). We estimate at least 250kg (over 600 pounds) collected in total.

“And once we got back to Longyearbyen, Claudio, Miriam, Werner, and I emptied it into the designated Cleanup Svalbard bin. The cleanup was reported to AECO as well as advice for future cleanups to target this particular beach.”

We could not be more proud of George’s story, which illustrates not only the value of these beach cleanups but also the enthusiasm our colleagues and guests have in undertaking them.

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