Rapa Nui to Tahiti


By Jess Cramp

Bleary eyed, I peeked out the window to see an emerald green hill dotted with wild horses. The deep blue on the horizon already beckoned me as I searched for another island in the distance. Stepping onto the ground felt like I was walking straight off the last page of great novel and into a place in my life that will forever be marked as before and after. Before I sailed the Pacific.

Thanks to The Quiksilver Foundation, who sponsored my berth, I am embarking on the trip of a lifetime aboard a sailboat to Tahiti, in search of plastic pollution with the crew from 5 Gyres.

For the past three days on Rapa Nui, I have been lucky enough to explore volcanic craters filled with marshy freshwater, surf a perfect little right hander on my perfect new 5’4” Moss Research Eco-Board (so graciously donated by Jake Moss, Rey at Entropy Resin, and Clay at Marko Foam) share laughs around a fire with people from eight different countries and dodge near arraignment at a World Heritage site. But a single walk on the sand has been a staunch reminder of our wastefulness on the larger lands of this planet.

The words “plastic confetti” have been used time and again, but they are the best two little descriptors for what happened upon us yesterday. With 15 Moai staring westward, behind their backs we quietly collected large pieces of buoys, bags and bottles. Niko, a local guide and environmentalist (whose group I can’t remember right this second!), led me to a well, which was nestled between the lava rocks not far from shore. This was a sacred spot to the indigenous because it was one of the few sites to collect fresh water. To my dismay, the interior and exterior of the rocks were littered with 2-5mm particles of plastic. I wish I thought they were beautiful, colored white and pink and blue. Niko looked at me and said, “Do you see the baby lobsters? Hmph, I suppose they’re eating this shit too.”

Our next stop was a sandy beach, where the surroundings must have inspired a Tolkien sequel. And maybe it’s because I was looking for it or maybe it’s because of the sheer number of particles, but I have never seen such a concentration of bits of plastic in my life. There is no glitter or gleam to polypropylene. I took a scoop of the sand with a metal strainer and played, like a child looking for treasure. In less than a minute, I had about two teaspoons worth of nurdles—the plastic pellets that are precursors to our bags and bottles. Until recently, many manufacturing facilities were careless about their little pellets, allowing them to wash into storm drains and roll their way out to sea. But with the help of Anna and Marcus of 5 Gyres, regulations have been put in place in many locations to manage this “overflow”.

As with every new crew member about to set sail with Sea Dragon, I am openly curious about just how much of this stuff I will happen upon in the big blue. I honestly don’t know of a beach in the world that is free from plastic, but what happens to it out there? How much of it sinks and then what happens to it? How much is ingested by birds and fish? Have the fish I eat been eating plastic? How many of these items onshore are items I use on the daily? Scary thoughts…

These are the questions I will try to answer with this experience.


Surfer and diver Jess Cramp accompanied the 5 Gyres Institute on a research expedition to Tahiti. Follow tales from her journey on the Sea Dragon last spring through her WAM blogs or on her own website: Destination Global Good.

Last modified: January 14, 2018

9 Responses to :
Rapa Nui to Tahiti

  1. James Gordon says:

    Awesome and inspiring…Great work on behalf of our planet!

  2. Amy Kotch says:

    How careless big companies are for the future of our planet, greed seems to supersede all logic and environmental care in business. It is awesome to see women committed to awareness, education and conservation of our precious resources! Keep em coming!!

  3. Chrissy says:

    Inspiring to see women gettin it done!!

  4. Brina says:

    More of us should act in this way – trying to learn more about our vanishing resources, protect the precious few we have left, and educate others to do the same. It’s so easy to turn a blind eye to what we our doing to our planet and women like Jess serve as a model for the rest of us to break out of the box and seek change. Keep inspiring!

  5. Alice says:

    I am so inspired by all you do young lady. I look forward to reading more in my woman’s mag. Sincerely, Alice

  6. Carrie says:

    Thank you for being such a positive role model! The world needs more people like you. Reading your blog reminds me of how our actions have an effect on our world and that each of us can make a difference. I can’t wait to keep reading your blogs.

  7. Niki says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing your adventures with those of us stuck behind a desk. 🙂 I am living vicariously through your experiences out in the big blue! I can only imagine what it is like to set foot on such a beautiful and faraway place to find that which brings you right back to the reality of our exhaustive consumption. If only one of these days we will all wake up and start taking responsibilities for our destructive actions. Sigh. To that point, I am incredibly inspired by you, to do what I can here in my community and along my own beaches. Please keep sharing!

  8. Meredith says:

    It is so tragic that plastic waste from large affluent countries has to impact creatures, ecosystems, and small communities whom rely on the ocean for the livelihoods. I guess we all don’t have to be a cause of the problem, but we can all be apart of the solution. Good on you Jess. You have 100% of my support!

  9. Kitt says:

    Well said, well done. Your voice is honest and your spirit is inspiring. Keep up the good work and thanks WA for posting this story!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.