sail-world.com -- 'The Ocean is Broken' - without fish, there can be no birds
'The Ocean is Broken' - without fish, there can be no birds
Wed, 23 Oct 2013
I first noticed the lack of birds when sailing the coastline of Turkey - only in a couple of bays were there a few cormorants and seagulls. We had been so used to thousands of birds when close to any coastline, and coming up the Red Sea was a delight. We dropped in a line when we needed another fish, and always found one within minutes.
But it was the Pacific that really shocked us, its lack of fish - and because there were no fish, neither were there any birds.
Now a sailor who has just sailed from Australia to Japan has told the same story to journalist Greg Ray in Newcastle, Australia, in a story called 'The Ocean is Broken':
It was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.
Not the absence of sound, exactly.
The wind still whipped the sails and whistled in the rigging. The waves still sloshed against the fibreglass hull.
And there were plenty of other noises: muffled thuds and bumps and scrapes as the boat knocked against pieces of debris.
What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.
The birds were missing because the fish were missing.
Exactly 10 years before, when Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen had sailed exactly the same course from Melbourne to Osaka, all he'd had to do to catch a fish from the ocean between Brisbane and Japan was throw out a baited line.
'There was not one of the 28 days on that portion of the trip when we didn't catch a good-sized fish to cook up and eat with some rice,' Macfadyen recalled.
But this time, on that whole long leg of sea journey, the total catch was two.
No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.
'In years gone by I'd gotten used to all the birds and their noises,' he said.
'They'd be following the boat, sometimes resting on the mast before taking off again. You'd see flocks of them wheeling over the surface of the sea in the distance, feeding on pilchards.'
But in March and April this year, only silence and desolation surrounded his boat, Funnel Web, as it sped across the surface of a haunted ocean.