We clean up our parks and streets. Who cleans up the bay? The military. Every month. In 1942, while on a flight from Hawaii to Washington DC, a seaplane carrying Admiral Chester Nimitz attempted to land in San Francisco Bay. The plane hit a piece of floating trash in the water and flipped, killing the pilot. Nimitz, the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, and the man for whom the 880 freeway is named, barely climbed out and swam to safety. He ordered afterward that the bay, which had been littered with floating logs, garbage and other refuse since the Gold Rush, be made ship-shape. Ever since then, the Army Corps of Engineers in Sausalito has sent out the USS Racoon and the USS Grizzly, two World War II-era ships, to haul in floating debris to reduce the safety risk to boats and planes. Using cranes, winches and grappling hooks, the crew hauls in more than 100 tons of trash a month. Trash is worst during the winter months when rains wash everything including the kitchen sink into the bay. We follow the Bay Area’s unheralded marine garbage collectors.
“San Francisco Bay Debris and Plug-In Hybrids” (episode #102) airs tonight on QUEST at 7:30pm on KQED 9, and KQED HD, Comcast 709. (full schedule)
To see & discuss all the photos from our voyage aboard the Raccoon, go to the San Francisco Bay Debris – KQED QUEST Set on Flickr.
You may also view the entire Bay Debris segment online.
Amy Miller is the Coordinating Producer for QUEST, and is the producer seen on camera in this segment.