Main image credit: Maximusinnyc
Environmental activist Lizzie Carr has become the first person to successfully paddle board the navigable length of New York’s Hudson River – a 275km journey from Albany in from New York State to the Statue of Liberty.
Lizzie, who paddled for up to nine hours a day for eight consecutive days, confronted unpredictable conditions throughout her journey. The incoming Hurricane Florence brought gusts of wind up to 30mph with large swells along the East Coast.
The intermittent thunderstorms, torrential downpours, strong currents and commercial shipping traffic – on a river that spans 3.5 miles at its widest point – made the feat of endurance all the more impressive.
Lizzie, a passionate environmental advocate who founded the Plastic Patrol initiative in the UK, took on this challenge to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution, ocean health and, more broadly, climate change.
En route Lizzie conducted a series of citizen science activities to develop a better understanding of water quality on the Hudson River. She collected water samples for microplastic analysis and hosted a series of beach cleans for local communities that were attended by more than 100 volunteers.
‘Paddle boarding the Hudson River was an incredible way to explore and experience New York, but it didn’t come without its challenges. It was physically demanding and mentally draining with each day throwing up new obstacles to navigate. This journey wasn’t just about the thrill of adventure and because there was a much bigger purpose at play I was even more determined to see it through.’
The USA is one of the world’s largest consumers of single-use plastic; it’s estimated that 90,000 pieces of microplastic were found floating in the average square kilometre of the Hudson River in 2017.
Lizzie and the beach clean volunteers collectively photographed and plotted more than 2,000 examples of plastic encountered along the Hudson River, which have been pulled into an interactive map Lizzie developed (www.plasticpatrol.co.uk/map). The map currently houses more than 50,000 crowd-sourced examples of plastic logged across 18 countries globally.
‘Gathering and plotting photographic evidence is a really powerful way of building evidence against the brands and manufacturers responsible for creating it’, Lizzie said. ‘What better place to end this challenge than in the heart of New York City where a lot of these companies are based.’
Lizzie is working in partnership with Riverkeeper and Hudson River Park to compare and analyse data collected.
Carrie Roble, director of science and stewardship at the Hudson River Park Estuary Lab, said the Hudson River – one of the largest estuaries in the United States – is ‘a significant place for Lizzie to highlight how microplastics are impacting the world’s waterways.’
‘The Hudson River Park Estuary Lab began researching the concentration of plastics two years ago and is finding far too many of these tiny plastics in the Park’s waters. With Lizzie’s help, we’re able to examine other parts of the river, better assess the scale of the problem and start developing solutions supported by science. The Hudson River estuary is as unique as it is valuable, and the health of its ecosystem deserves our commitment to reducing pollution in these waters.’
Director of science and stewardship at the Hudson River Park Estuary Lab
For Lizzie, tackling the problem at the root – inland where 80% of marine debris starts – is where we can really make a difference. ‘I was overwhelmed by the positivity and support I received from locals on my way’, she said. ‘I was joined on the water by people who had been tracking my journey online and others stopped on the shoreline who cheered me on. It was incredibly motivating and really illustrates how much people care about the issue.’
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