Log book: Ocean Amazon Irina Peterson

In this entry, Monaco’s Irina Peterson learns more about the plastic pollution on the Galapagos and dives below the surface. 

February 7th: The lesser known side of Galapagos

This wasn’t the usual “tourist request” for a visit. I went today to see the recycling centre in Santa Cruz, Galapagos, and met Jorge, an everyday hero, who together with his team are recycling the plastic and trash of the island.

After the beautiful images I shared with you these last days, it may be hard to look at this but it’s important to know it exists. These paradise islands are becoming more and more victims of plastic and garbage arriving from the ocean and landing on the pristine beaches.
We need to do something about it at the source, any careless action in our day to day consumption behaviour will certainly end up here and other places. The nature miracle called Galapagos belongs to all of us, and to our children, we are all responsible for its protection.

Another everyday hero I met here is Carolina, a dedicated marine biologist who – together with her husband – is working hard to save one of the endangered birds of Galapagos. In addition to working on this amazing scientific project and being a busy young mother, Carolina found the time and passion to bring the “precious plastic” project to the island.

It is a movement created to help recycle plastic in remote areas using an easy to assemble machine and various metal moulds to re-shape the recycled plastic in beautiful objects: key holders, trays, cups and even jewellery. Her idea in creating these beautiful pieces is to have tourists buy them as souvenirs and take some of the plastic away from the island in the process.

Also, these recycled pieces (which could be recycled over and over again) can be a reminder for all of us, when we go back to our lives, to be more responsible about our plastic usage. I received this beautiful tortoise, which will be my token from today onwards to make myself more accountable about my day-to-day behaviour affecting the environment!
I am truly hopeful that collectively we can do so much good and that every little action counts.

February 10th: In Cousteau’s footsteps

Ever since watching Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s underwater documentaries every Sunday as a child, I wanted to be able to see for myself these mesmerising worlds. The legendary explorer helped me escape into a world of wonder, and despite the tiny black and white TV I was watching it on at home, in my mind these amazing marine creatures were vividly coloured.
At 18, I got my diving license even before my driving license, and along the years I had the chance to dive in some of the most incredible places: Great Barrier Reef, Red Sea, Indonesia, Mexico. What I started to notice though, over the space of 10 years, is the increasing impact that humans had in the destruction of corals and marine life, and pollution.
Galapagos is still one of the places where nature is winning, where animal wildlife and marine species have a fair chance. Although, talking with the diving master and his crew, they are seeing more and more plastic debris arriving from all sorts of places.
The two dives I did today were special – one was a wall dive allowing us to explore the rich marine life, and the second dive in North Seymour had a deep sandy bottom and some current, bringing large school of fish to our attention.

Diving is not something which comes natural to me. I have to push my boundaries every time I go down, there is always a little panic and self questioning whether I can follow this through. It is not in the absence of fear that I am l doing it, but overcoming it with each calming breath I take underwater, acknowledging my intrusion in this sacred space and respecting its rules.
Javier, our diving master, was not only very knowledgeable but also a sunny personality which helped create a relaxing ambiance on the boat.
Cousteau’s documentaries gave me an incredible gift, to see through eyes of wonder the beautiful underwater world and for this, I will be eternally grateful. And it is now time to pay it forward. With my Ocean Amazon documentary, I hope to contribute in giving more generations the gift of dreaming of adventures in exploring the oceans and discovering its beauty. Just like that little girl, on a Sunday morning.
Irina aka Ocean Amazon