Weileman and Campbell will depart June 22 and arrive at Augustine Island June 30. The island’s location at the mouth of Cook Inlet puts it in prime position to collect marine debris from the infamous tsunami. Because Augustine Island lacks rivers, no salmon runs mean no bears, which in turn mean no anglers or wildlife viewers. Coupled with the island’s namesake volcano as the most active in the Aleutian Arc, these factors make it one the least-visited islands in North America. Upon surveying Augustine for marine debris, also called flotsam, the team will paddle through harsh open water to Chisik Island and complete the expedition in late July.
For Weileman, ASC represents the ideal marriage of adventure and science. “It’s a great organization to work with, what they’re doing is extremely important,” he said. Weileman appreciates ASC’s facilitation of brains and brawn for environmental advocacy. He recognizes his skill set can obtain data that researchers otherwise wouldn’t acquire. “On a personal level it gives me such a great sense of satisfaction because I’m out there doing what I love to do,” he said. “But it’s not just a selfish endeavor, it’s also interesting work. I get to bring some of my skills into the picture.”
The Ikkatsu Project will also submit its data to NOAA in an effort to improve management decisions. Weileman said he hopes the findings will be used to map debris and influence how organizations budget cleanup funds. For Weileman, the crux of the problem becomes the aged cliché – it’s sink or swim. One of the Ikkatsu Project’s main goals is to raise awareness of the issues underlying the flotsam pandemic. “The ocean is ground zero for everything that goes on,” he said. “It’s our source of life, it drives the weather. There may be a mid-western farmer who’s never been to the Pacific Ocean, but the effects reach him.” In the past, Weileman said he’s been overwhelmed with the task at hand, but he remains optimistic in a pragmatic fashion. “If we can engineer the problem, why can’t we engineer the solution?” he rhetorically asks those he counters. “Collectively, we can affect a change. We have to believe that.”
- Dylan Jones