‘…the Slithy Toves Did Gyre and Gimble in the Wabe…’

‘To recognize one’s own insanity, is of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence.’

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005)

There is an abiding false notion that when water goes down a plughole in the Southern Hemisphere it rotates anticlockwise (or ‘widdershins’, as my Scottish grandmother insisted) and clockwise in the Northern hemisphere. This old wives’ tale (or old grandmother’s tale) is not as vague as it might seem, mind you: there is a scientific precedent for its potential to be accurate – the ocean gyres that dot the planet’s watery areas. In oceanography, a gyre is large area of circulating ocean currents, largely created by wind movement, the earth’s rotation and the Coriolis effect. In the Northern Hemisphere the gyres do indeed spin clockwise, and anticlockwise here in the Southern half of the globe. Similarly, tornados and typhoons demonstrate the same tendency.

Given that baths, basins and other vessels that empty through plugs are largely unaffected by wind and the spinning earth, it would require the Coriolis effect to dictate the direction of the spinning water as it gurgles down the drain. In the simplest terms as possible, the Coriolis effect is the friction effect of a spinning body that rotates with reference to an inertial body. A clockwise spin will act against the left side of the body; an anticlockwise spin against the right hand side of the body. In terms of meteorology, air travels clockwise around high pressure in the Northern Hemisphere and anticlockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, and this determines the spin of the ocean currents. Once again, our little plugs are immune to this influence, so it’s probably more a case of random local elements that create the little whirlpools in out bathrooms. Sorry Grandma.

But it’s those huge ocean gyres that have got our attention again. With the more conscientious nations trying to limit the use of plastic across the board, it’s time to reflect on the damage that continues to be done to our planet, and specifically our oceans, through the widespread ignoring of plastic pollution controls by the other less caring (and very big) world economies. The ocean gyres, as we have mentioned previously, act as great whirlpools, and like whirlpools, once a floating body is caught in the flow there is very little chance of escape. They act as a form of measurable human conscience as a result: the plastic detritus just piles up and gets thicker, deeper and more destructive. Thus the mellifluous sounding South Pacific Gyre is now known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Well done, humanity!

It’s not just a great ugly whirling patch of rubbish. It affects marine life, contaminates the ocean with toxic chemicals, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. It contain 90 million tonnes of debris, and is just one of five major – and similarly polluted – ocean gyres. The waste is not compact, and although most of it is near the surface of the Pacific, it can be found up to more than 30 metres deep in the water. It breaks down very slowly into nodules that will continue to kill wildlife for centuries to come. Name and shame: The 10 largest emitters of oceanic plastic pollution worldwide are, from the most to the least: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, mostly through their rivers, that have become nothing more than garbage conduits, accounting for 90 percent of all the plastic that reaches the world’s oceans. The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that for every square mile of ocean there are about 46,000 pieces of plastic. Think about that next time you bag a few potatoes in a flimsy yet almost indestructible plastic packet.

Humans are their own worst enemy. It’s difficult to see how future generations will cope with this type of destruction of the planet’s resources. As the population continues to grow (ironically at the fastest pace in the above-mentioned countries), resources dwindle. The oceans have been an absolutely vital food resource since homo sapiens first ambled on the beaches: not for much longer unless some drastic interventions take place.

At Waterfront Charters we absolutely love everything about the ocean. Its majesty, its mystery, its beauty. As we have said before, it’s where we play and work, and we will do all in our power to help preserve it for the sake of the future of the planet. World Ocean Day is an annual international day that takes place on the 8th June each year. It has been taking place for 30 years (much the same as Waterfront Charters) and supports the implementation of worldwide Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fosters public interest in the protection of the ocean and the sustainable management of its resources. We support it in every respect: watch this space for more information on World Ocean Day closer to the time.

And in the meantime, join us for a cruise. Cape Town’s shoreline is a treasure trove of history, wildlife and geological wonder; not only that – it’s incredibly scenic as well. Waterfront Charters offer the best possible way to check the iconic Harbour to Three Anchor Bay stretch aboard Adventure 1, our low-slung outboard motor propelled rigid-hulled inflatable. It’s on special! Buy two tickets and get two free in April – it is child-friendly for teens, and there is no better way to introduce people to the wonders of the ocean and help spread the word that it must be preserved at all costs.