At the end of the summer I venture south, like some strange and wingless migratory bird with a busted internal compass. Jam the rusty Corolla full of surfboards, gumboots, woollies and a few kilos of camera gear, roll on and off the ferry and then fang it down the length of the island to a sleepy little wharf, jump onto a cray boat with a bunch of salty sea dogs and steam west, off again on my favourite annual holiday to the very edge of everything.
Lutruwita/Tasmania's southwest coast is home to the most extraordinary beaches. It’s a place that exists beyond the limits of language, with the power to grow your eyes to the size of awestruck dinner plates in a single instant. It’s off the tap. But this remote ecological wonderland is getting thrashed by a wave of polluting plastic that chokes up the ocean and washes onto the sand, causing all sorts of unfortunate havoc. And so every year, give or take, a volunteer crew of extreme beach cleaners (my mates and I) steam west on an epic expedition to remove tens of thousands of items of rubbish from the most beautiful place on earth.
I’m a very lucky human — this year was my tenth Southwest Marine Debris Cleanup. Over the past decade or so, the experience of traversing the beautiful southwest Country of the Palawa people, of removing literally hundreds of thousands of items of rubbish from this special corner of the world and of listening carefully to all the intrepid wisdom and wild (and ever-growing) tales of my cleanup family has leant me a bunch of navigational cues. A haphazard collection of barnacled observations that have shaped my understanding of the world. Here are a few bits of flotsam I’ve picked up along the way.