Project info

SHOAL depicts plastic marine debris collected from the North Pacific Ocean during The Japanese Tsunami Debris Field Expedition in June 2012, following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The images show all plastic collected and photographed during the scientific research voyage that lasted one month and covered over 4000 miles. Plastic debris was collected from trawl and net samples recovered from the North Pacific Ocean between Japan and Hawaii, and also from the tsunami affected shoreline. The collections of plastic form shoals and were photographed onboard the expedition vessel, a 72ft yacht, and captioned with the grid reference of where each sample was collected.

Staring down into the ocean and seeing unmistakable objects such as a boot laced to the top, a pair of children’s shoes, buckets, cups, caps, a felt-tipped marker, a syringe, a coat hanger, etc., pass by are a constant reminder of lives lost. Unidentified plastic particles seem to represent people, and similarities are seen in the plastics collected; a piece of bag like a face, styrofoam like bone, a twisted bottleneck like a flower, a plastic tag like a butterfly. A reminder of life from retrieved pieces of plastic, not only from what objects they have been, and where they have come from, but more importantly from who they belonged.

Being able to record plastic at source, and from such a unique location, despite the devastating circumstances and emotional impact of natural disaster has provided an essential opportunity for scientific research. The work represents an awareness of plastic pollution, but more importantly the memorial of a tragic event.

(Shoal is a description given to a group of fish swimming together, a large number of people, or things).