THE IKKATSU MISSION:
EMPIRICAL KAYAKING AND WILD SCIENCE
In 2012, the Ikkatsu Project was formed in Tacoma, WA. The first Ikkatsu expedition traveled the rugged Olympic shoreline of Washington, surveying remote beaches for marine debris. Although we were originally focused on debris from the March, 2011, tsunami (that had drifted on ocean currents and made landfall on the coast of North America), the expedition members soon realized that the problem consisted of much more than simply the remains of the tragedy in Japan. Beaches and shorelines from Puget Sound to Antarctica are being inundated with pollution, most of it plastic and much of it toxic. Raising awareness about this serious environmental issue, through print, films and data-gathering expeditions is the primary goal of the Ikkatsu Project.
The 2013 Ikkatsu expedition traveled to south-central Alaska, to the volcanic island of Augustine, that sits at the mouth of Cook Inlet. Based on computer projections, tsunami debris was expected to have already begun arriving on the rarely-visited shoreline of the island, as well as on the beaches of the nearby Alaska Peninsula, just seven miles away. The Ikkatsu team kayaked around the island, and conducted surveys of the beaches and turned over all of the collected data to NOAA and other scientific organizations. In addition, water samples were collected at various points along the route and sent to the east coast as part of an ongoing global study of microplastics.
Pollution, specifically plastic and other flotsam, is a very real threat to our oceans and to untouched ecosystems like those found on the coasts of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. It is hoped that surveys like the ones we have done and continue to do will assist in better understanding and remediating the problem. Ikkatsu is a Japanese word that means, “united as one, ” which is a concept that the tsunami debris – and all marine debris – illustrates in a powerful way. Ikkatsu expeditions are an attempt to understand how we are connected… no matter how distant something may seem at first glance, we are all riding on the same planet. The vast expanse of the oceans doesn’t keep us apart; it is what joins us together.
Additional information and updates continue to be posted on this web site and on the Project’s Facebook page. In 2014, the Ikkatsu Project incorporated the construction of a plastic-bottle kayak and the voyage that followed, north through Puget Sound. Other major expeditions and programs have included the 2015 Puyallup River sampling journey, the Puget Trail and the South Kuiu Cleanup. Beach cleanups and surveys continue regularly on the Washington coast and freshwater sampling for microplastics is the focus of a multi-year program with Middle School students in the Puyallup watershed.
The Tacoma Shoreline Survey was conceived in the latter part of 2014 as a first attempt at establishing a baseline of beach debris on the shores of Tacoma, in south Puget Sound. The second TSS took place in late 2018 and included volunteers from around the community in documenting the current state of the city’s shoreline. The TSS is now an annual event, scheduled for the spring of each year. It is hoped that the data that is compiled will be used to guide future beach cleanup efforts and serve to connect people to this very special part of the Pacific Northwest.
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