Why would a man choose to row a small boat across the Atlantic Ocean by himself? And who could do something this crazy?
Meet Grant Blakeway, a man on a mission to help save our planet's blue heart. Grant's epic journey is raising funds to support two projects he feels strongly about - the Oceans In Motion outreach programme of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation and the White Shark Project's Recycle Swop Shop.
Grant is a 58-year-old father and Durban local. He is not an athlete. He is not a professional boater. But, Grant is a citizen of Planet Earth and that means that he, like all of us, has the power to step up and take action against the tide of plastic pollution that is affecting our oceans.
Grant's team will be taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December 2019 - an epic journey of over 3 000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to raise funds and draw attention to one of the most pressing threats facing our ocean - plastic pollution. The Talisker Challenge is regarded as the world's toughest row and will take rowers from the Canary Islands to the West Indies - a journey Grant hopes to complete in just 55 days.
His team name is "Melokuhle", isiZulu for "stand for what's right", and that's what Grant plans to do on this epic endeavour.
Grant Blakeway recounts the experience which opened his eyes to the perils of plastic pollution on an anniversary holiday with his wife to Indonesia:
"We were staying at a picture-perfect resort on the other side of the world, thousands of kilometres from home, but the beaches looked nothing like those in the brochures. The pristine shores we’d expected were instead strewn with all kinds of garbage. Packets, bottles, straws, wrappers, broken toys… Plastic, plastic, and more plastic as far as the eye could see. We were both stunned by the scale of the pollution."
Returning to South Africa, it was clear to Grant that this was not just a problem affecting distant beaches. Every strip of coastline, every marine habitat and every sea creature is being affected by plastic pollution. If this is the state of things now, what will be left for future generations?
You can help the Melokuhle team accomplish this by supporting their BackaBuddy campaign, which will help fund their boat and race fees, as well as support causes that aim to reduce ocean plastic pollution and nurture an ocean-loving future generation. The Melokuhle is looking for organisations to sponsor R1000 per mile rowed to contribute towards their environmental goals (see below), and welcomes members of the public to support them on Backabuddy.
Oceans in Motion is an outreach programme of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation that takes environmental education to thousands of school children in Cape Town each year. Equipped with a portable classroom, a mobile aquarium with living animals and multi-lingual educators, Oceans In Motion is many children's first opportunity to discover the wonder of the ocean, learn about marine life and begin to appreciate how their actions on land affect this ecosystem, especially in under-resourced schools and communities.
The White Shark Project's Recycle Swop Shop serves the children of the Masekhane community, by allowing them to trade collected recyclable materials for points which can then easily be used to buy items like soap, stationery, clothing and toys. This project has seen great success in the community, with children feeling a sense of accomplishment when they save enough points for that luxury item they've been eyeing, and equipping them with the basics that they need for home and school life - and helps clean up the community in the process.
The Talisker Challenge is scheduled to start on 12 December 2019. We'll be keeping a close eye on Grant as he undertakes this epic feat! If you would like to follow Grant's row and show your support to this campaign, you can do so here.