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  • Miles Hedley

WORLD OCEANS DAY at the National Maritime Museum

There were some terrifying statistics highlighted at World Oceans Day at the National Maritime Museum. For example, without radical action the amount of plastic in our seas will outstrip the fish population in the next decade. And alarmingly we humans already have tiny pieces of plastic in our guts because we eat fish contaminated by polymers.

Meanwhile, climate change is accelerating, coral reefs are dying, whales and other marine animals are struggling and the oceans, responsible for creating so much of the air we breathe, is at risk of losing its life-giving properties.

But there is hope among the apocalyptic gloom. Organisations such as Berkshire-based Ocean Polymers are dreaming up innovative new ways of harvesting the plastic to create a self-sustaining fuel for ships. And environmentalists from groups such as Greenpeace are waging a tireless campaign – often at great personal risk – against those who exploit the planet’s limited resources.

The NMM event wisely aimed all this information at kids because children, as we all know, are the future and it will eventually be up to their generation to try to reverse the disastrous damage being perpetrated, sometimes accidentally but often wilfully, by their elders.

A flotilla of sea-nymphs, top, and a mermaid – all wearing Anna Kompaniets costumes incorporating dumped plastic – acted as guides and assistants to visitors checking out the games, displays and talks on offer at the museum.

A huge artwork more than five metres square and painted this spring on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast by Peter hung over the main action on the Great Map floor. Below, artist Ian MacMenamin was encouraging youngsters to make up eco-slogans and poems and then write them on cardboard placards. And throughout the day, the kids and their families were entertained with live music by the Metronome Steel Orchestra.

Downstairs, a stunning video installation by Evan Roth featured infrared images of points round the world where internet cables come ashore. You can download it for free at

Across the corridor, Helen Wigglesworth from Ocean Polymers was answering a raft of spot-on questions from schoolchildren about what they could do to help unclog the seas. And as they emerged from the session, they were confronted by Taffy the Turtle, above, ccompanied by attendants dressed in costumes made from old plastic bags, crawling feebly though the museum looking in vain for sanctuary. The performance was simply called You Are Warmly Invited To The Death Of A Turtle.

The NMM was packed with children and it was clear from their enthusiastic participation in the talks, workshops and displays that they were having a ball – but also taking on board the enormity of the task facing the human race.

The statistics at the heart of this excellent day were deeply depressing. But the positivity of the kids was so uplifting that I can’t believe anyone went home without at least a glimmer of hope in their hearts.


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