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Entering Debris Zone

June 25, 2012

Day 4

Local Noon Position (12:55pm Hawaii Standard Time):
By GPS: (Ooops. Forgot to check.)
By Sextant: 31.16N by 163.06W
(Note: In case it becomes important at some point, I emphasize LOCAL noon, above, because a sextant noon shot for latitude can only be done then. Our idea of “12 o’clock noon” is a convention that works nicely ashore, but not here. The time listed above is the time, to the minute, that the sun was directly overhead Murre on this day.)

Course: 340 degrees true
Speed: 5.5 to 6.5 knots
Wind: 14 – 18 ESE
Sea: 4 – 8 feet E
Sky: 10% occluded. Just small, cottony cumulus, again, all day. Bar: 1028 and rising…still rising.
Air Temp (in the cabin): 72 degrees F
Water Temp: 73.2 degrees F
Sails: All sails up with one reef. Plowing along.

Since last noon: 145
Total for passage: 572
Daily average: 143

Debris: Below

Ships and other piloted vessels: none

Birds: Several Black Footed Albatross. Several large and small all-dark storm petrels. One Large Gadfly Petrel. Maybe ten birds all day. Not a one was close enough for better identification. No White Tailed Tropic Bird.


Note: At the bottom of this post is a longish email I received yesterday from the University of Hawaii regarding tsunami debris. Posted here for those interested.

Night much the same. Sleep for an hour. Wake to the radar yammering on about an approaching rain cloud. Get up. Watch it. Ensure it’s not actually an approaching ship. See rain. Wait till it passes. Slide back to bunk.

But the day has been quite different. Today we are beginning to see consistent signs of debris in the water.

For ease (mine–I’m reporting to UofH as well), I’ve itemized the day as I’ve seen it, simply copying here what I wrote in Murre’s log. I’m not on deck at all times, so there are great gaps in the day.

All the debris has been small, mostly plastic, mostly white (oddly) and all submerged; that is, at or just below the water-top. Because the sightings are of small stuff, they were all within 10 to 60 feet of Murre when seen. No photos were taken; no debris was gathered.

0801 (Hawaii Standard Time): A tangle of colored, one inch diameter nylon rope of the kind used by commercial fishermen. The tangle was about four feet in diameter.

0808 White, plastic lid, like that of a yoghurt container; tinges of green. Then a plastic bottle too far away to define well.

0811 A small bit of plastic the size of a slice of bread.

0831 Three small unidentifiable bits of hard white plastic roughly four inches by four inches in size. Then what can only be described as a six inch cream colored nudibranch, undulating in Murre’s wake. No idea!

0850 A piece of perforated plastic approximately one inch by two inches, white, lightly covered in slime. Then one square, pint sized bottle, white with pale blue lid, also brownish with slime. Then something yellow a foot below the water.

0854 Black Footed Albatross to our lee.

1050 Been on deck last 40 minutes. Debris sightings coming consistently at one to five minute intervals. Usually individual, small bits of white plastic lightly covered in brown slime. Typical size range is one inch by one inch to six inches by six inches (i.e. very small). Always at or just below the water surface; never floating on top of the water. Pieces are often/usually broken and often unrecognizing. One piece looked like the corner of a bread delivery tray (perforated). Saw, only once, a distinctly orange piece of plastic. Once a grouping of 5 to 7 pieces in proximity, but that is rare; pieces are usually one at a time.

1100 A whole fish float, round, roughly twelve inches in diameter, white, capsized, floating on top of water! A first.

1110 Flying fish: some are as big as a healthy trout and fly with expertise several hundred feet. Others are fry; they crash and burn in their frenzy to escape Murre’s black hull. They know that they are to leap from the water in response to fear, but there all coordination ceases. They do end-overs, collide with each other, leap directly into an oncoming wave and then leap straight up. Saw a fry today that must have been all of one inch long. Also noticed flying fish scales eight feet up the mizzen mast. Bet that got his attention.

1130 Larger piece of white plastic, like a part of a bucket. Black Footed Albatross. Way to lee, again. They just aren’t curious.

1200 A whole plastic “bladder”, roundish container the size of a volley ball with long, tapering neck and a snout of one inch opening. Yellowish brown. Like something from a chemist’s laboratory. Floating with several other bits of plastic, unidentifiable.

Noon HST position by GPS
Course: 340 degrees
Speed: 6 knots

1221 A ten foot by six foot tangle of fish net.

1236 A whole bottle, quart sized, like small detergent bottle, lidless, white, brown slime covered, submerged.

1257 Length of white PVC pipe, four feet, about three inches in diameter, coated black inside. One foot by two foot piece of bucket (looked like a bucket), broken.

1318 Black Footed Albatross. Far away. What’s new. They could learn so much from me if they just came by for coffee.

1402 Wind up. 17 gusting 20 ESE. Double reef in jib, reef in main. Still making six knots.

1425 Plastic tubing, like surgical tubing, six inches long. More flat, white pieces, unrecognizable. Black Footed Albatross, downwind.


June 23, 2012

Dear Randall

Thank you very much for helping us to collect information about tsunami debris. Below are important updates.

1. Sailing yacht Dana Felicia, who started from Kauai on June 13, started seeing debris along 160W, 32N. The density was increasing and reached its maximum between 38N and 40N. It was then dropping between 40 and 42N, and north of 42N they do not see debris any more. Please use this information to coordinate your safety and observations. It is unlikely that you can go around the debris in the west or east. Please take as many high-resolution photos as possible. If photos are difficult because you are moving fast, try to take movie. Also, if possible at all, please collect 20 litters (minimum 10 litters) of sea water at 40N – we will help arrange its shipping to Hawaii for analysis.

2. We have just received a report from a fishing boat, who (about a week ago) spotted 20’x10′ concrete dock, floating at 38N, 162.5W. We are now trying to assess its trajectory but presumably it is drifting towards east and may be in your way.

The same fishing boat also mentions salvage companies, both from Japan and US active in the area. Please make a note about ships that may belong to salvage companies. If possible, please take photos. Let us know if you will hear anything about their activity?

3. There are three more boats, sailing or preparing to sail from Hawaii to Alaska, so we have a good chance to collect excellent data from the section along 160W. Please promptly share with us important
information so that we could advise other sailors, especially, if if you spot anything dangerous.

3. Please also beware that
according to our models, supported by reports from Alaska coast, there is debris floating within a few hundred miles near the coast. This debris is the leading edge of the debris field that is moving from Japan along 40N. Presumably, it consists of light objects, that under force of wind
reached the west coast early and now are carried by the Alaska Stream from the south and east along the shore. Unfortunately, “light” may include such objects as ships and boats. Currently we do not have any specific reports but the US Coast Guard may have. Please be careful and share with us your observations.

Best regards, Nikolai
Please continue sending your emails to , Jan will forward them to me.



  1. June 25, 2012 5:36 am

    You know that when you cross the 49th parallel you will have to report the temperature in degrees celsius? Despite that problem still enjoying the postings!

    • June 26, 2012 2:49 am

      Hi there – Randall’s unable to reply mid passage (lack of internet connection and all)_ I try and play a poor substitute (his wife). hate to break the news to you…while he’s managed to master the sextant, his math skills are pretty much non-existent so i’d be surprised if he flipping from F to C correctly. We can only hope. Thanks for following! Jo

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