Sailing Today spoke to Jon as he set off on his 10th circumnavigation here
The COVID-19 pandemic extended the voyage by six months due to quarantine requirements. At sea, Sanders saw some of the roughest conditions he has known.
The 46,100km voyage was undertaken partly to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the oceans and Sanders was backed by the Minderoo Foundation.
Foundation chairman Dr Andrew Forrest was in Freemantle with co-chair Nicola Forrest to welcome Sanders home.
He said: “Ground breaking research by the Minderoo Foundation and others, like Jon, into plastic pollution is showing that plastic and its waste is posing an imminent serious health and environmental threat, to both wildlife and humanity.
“Jon is an extraordinary Australian and we are immensely grateful for his herculean efforts, which have helped to increase awareness and scientific evidence of the impact plastic waste is having on our oceans, and ourselves.”
“As someone who has spent more than 60 years traversing and enjoying the world’s oceans, I could not sit idly by and watch that same environment be choked to death with plastic waste,” Sanders said.
“My voyage has given me a unique opportunity to contribute to scientific research on microplastics, particularly in the Indian, Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans.”
Each day of the voyage, Sanders filtered 100 litres of ocean water and at each port of call, the filters were sent for analysis by researchers at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.
Lead researcher and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice said the results showed microplastics were present in virtually all water samples filtered across both the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
“Microplastics were found on most filters. The highest levels were found in two filters obtained from just south of the equator about 600km off the Brazilian coast where numbers approached 300 particles per cubic meter of seawater,” Professor Grice said.
“Overall, the numbers of microplastics found to date from Jon Sanders’ circumnavigation is consistent with the amount expected in the shallow subsurface open ocean for the amount of seawater filtered.
“These results help to build a more detailed picture of plastic pollution across the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere and ultimately, Jon’s voyage will provide a unique record of microplastics throughout a significant area of the globe.”
Professor Grice said while a study based on an 11-year data set in the North Pacific estimated a weight of 21,290 metric tons of floating microplastic in these regions, to date there was very little data for the world’s southern oceans.
“The data from water samples collected by Jon Sanders in the Caribbean Sea will be used to calibrate results from his voyage with previous research. Water samples from the vast Pacific Ocean and from the Southern Ocean off the coast of Australia will be analysed in the coming months,” Professor Grice said.
Estimates suggest that plastic costs over US$2.2 trillion a year in environmental and social damage. This unacceptable cost to humanity led Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation to come on board as a supporter for Sanders’ solo circumnavigation of the globe.
Minderoo Foundation has established the “Sea the Future” initiative, with new projects already underway in countries plagued by plastic waste, like Indonesia, to encourage every person and company across the plastics supply chain to leverage their ability to change the way the world uses and disposes of plastic.
“Jon’s remarkable voyage and his important water sampling, which has shown microplastics are present across both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, reinforces the urgency of our efforts to limit the catastrophic impact plastic is having on our ecosystem,” said Sea The Future Chief Operating Officer Nakul Saran.
“We warmly welcome Jon home and thank him for his herculean efforts, which have provided a unique insight into the state of plastic pollution in the Southern Ocean.”
Given Sanders has spent more than 17 days alone at sea since his last port of Sydney and then six days isolated on his boat in Albany before returning a negative COVID-19 test result, he has received a quarantine exemption to enter Western Australia.