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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Escaping Storms?

Sunday, September 23, 2007
USS Cole – Orkney Islands 57°34N 004°07W

The ship is heading west again, after cruising eastward over the top of Scotland overnight, to avoid predicted 50kt winds from the south up the narrow channel called the Minches off the NW coast, where we’ve been for nearly a week. We reached the fabled fishing grounds of the Orkney Islands before turning. There’s a brilliant sunset view from the port bridge wing, produced in part by the massed cumulus, suggesting the storm we ran from awaits us still.

The view astern is in sharp contrast. If you look closely, you can see the trash bags bobbing in our wake. Watching them drift I thought about all the debris the oceans have absorbed since humans became complex enough to discard our waste into the rivers and seas. One of the British officers on board for the exercises remarked on enjoying scuba diving off the south coast of England. “What are you diving on?,” I asked. “Wrecks,” he said, “which are really plentiful in Dorset waters.” And the oceans go on absorbing everything that flows or falls into our waters. Seventy percent of the planet, of course, but a recent study estimates the amount of degraded plastic is six times the volume of plankton. If you’re not certain about the meaning of “plankton,” you can [click it], look it up, or email my daughter at


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