Hi again from the South Pacific! It’s the 9th day of the South Pacific Gyre expedition and we are about half-way between Easter Island and Tahiti, anchored off-shore the Pitcairn Island. A British protectorate semi-independent state with a population of about 60 people. With a pretty interesting history and with the lonliness that comes with being in the middle of nowhere, islanders are extremely friendly towards their rare visitors. Before we arrived here we stopped at an uninhabited island called Henderson, which belongs to the Pitcairn Islands group.There are four islands in the Pitcairn group and three of them are uninhabited. They are a loose group, meaning they are quite far from each other (more than 100 miles). Arguably, the environmentally most interesting one in this group is the Henderson Island. It is protected under the UNESCO World Heritage Site status since the 80’s and has a quite lively plant and animal life, also a stunning underwater life. Whatever its credentials are though, it is not enough to protect it from plastic pollution.
Neither it is enough to be in the middle of nowhere in this respect. Even though yearly visitors are limited most probably to two-digit numbers, its plastic visitors exceed that number by a very large margin. In the few hours we walked around its, supposedly, pristine beach we came across countless number of plastics, from fishing lines to mooring buoys, disposable lighters, shampoo bottles, even a volleyball.
Most of them have probably travelled with the currents and reached that far-away destination. But there were also clear signs of fishing fleets in the form of pieces of fishing equipments spread around, basically, everywhere.
Fishing in those open waters are mainly of foreign origin, by international fishing fleets of some seafaring nations, since the Pitcairnians do not have the means and the human resources (population 60!) to make any recognizable impact. This small uninhabited island home to four endemic species of landbirds and hundreds of other animal and plant species, and which is protected by the UN, is a telling example how far-reaching the plastic pollution is, and how it is impossible to get away from it even if you are surrounded by thousands of kilometers of water.