In 2018, two passionate young Australian women spent three months kayaking along the Inside Passage, a route that snakes its way through a network of waterways from Glacier Bay in Alaska to Vancouver Island in Canada. A challenging journey stretching out over two thousand kilometres – 2042km’s to be exact.

Captured on film, Changing Tides follows the adventure the girls undertook, throughout which they managed to avoid single-use plastics entirely. The objective was to raise awareness of marine plastic pollution. Two kayaks. Three months. 2000 kms. Zero single-use plastics.

So why the Inside Passage? After Lucy visited Alaska in 2009 she caught her first glimpse of the Inside Passage and was awestruck. From that moment on it became her dream to return one day with her kayak and conquer it. Luckily she was able to convince Mathilde to join her.

Lucy Graham and Mathilde Gordon met during their university years. Discovering a mutual respect for the planet and a love for adventure that has led them across the world exploring and forever in search of the next challenge. Snorkelling and rock climbing, hiking and scuba diving. Throughout this, their passion for the environment funneled them continuously into work with conservation groups and beach clean-ups. Highlighting to both girls first-hand, the harsh impact of plastics on the environment and marine life.

At uni, where we met, we started volunteering for beach clean-ups and saw firsthand how everyday plastics were impacting the ocean and wild life
– Mathilde

The effect of this on Lucy and Mathilde was huge. It was enough to convince them to start living a single-use, plastic-free life. By the time they set out on their journey in 2018, they’d already been living clean for two years. But while single-use, plastic-free living at home was one thing, the real challenge was to pull this off during a three month trip, in a kayak, with limited storage space and far from life’s creature comforts. This would take some serious planning.

Lucy started out as an outdoor educator, leading groups on multi-day adventure sports. She attributes this experience to fine-tuning the organisational skills required for such a challenging trip. She also undertook a number of kayaking marathons in Australia, which Lucy firmly believes taught her about the determination, planning and training needed for such an enormous challenge. Holding a Bachelor of Sustainability has given Lucy a deeper understanding of the social and environmental challenges faced across the planet and she’s fully committed to fighting for a more sustainable life on earth.

Mathilde grew up in a family of outdoor enthusiasts, which ignited her passion for the outdoors and all its living inhabitants. Studying Zoology and Ecology further contributed to her will to protect the environment and led to a career in conservation and a genuine interest in scientific research, particularly surrounding ecology and environmental management. Being a keen outdoor adventurist, Mathilde didn’t take much convincing when lucy proposed she join her on a three-month kayaking quest in the northern hemisphere. In fact, she embraced the opportunity to venture out of her comfort zone!

Two years of training and preparation went into the Inside Passage trip. Decisions were made to ensure their footprint was light. Such as using paper maps to avoid the batteries required for the digital versions; sourcing many of the items they needed second hand; and cooking then dehydrating five hundred meals and storing them in paper, so that hot, homemade meals could be enjoyed by the girls each day without any rubbish heading to landfill. Three months of meals! That’s no mean feat girls.

But even here in this remote wilderness, surrounded by abundant wildlife, icebergs as big as trucks, and boundless serenity… even here, there’s a legacy of neglect evident in the rubbish that has accumulated. Washed up on remote beaches and bays. Lucy and Mathilde stopped along the route to take part in organised beach clean-ups and even they were surprised by the sheer volume of plastic, styrofoam and fishing nets collected. Certainly an eye-opener for those of us that have not fully appreciated the extent of this issue, and cementing exactly what the girls are trying to call attention to – marine plastic pollution.

This is not the problem of conservationists and environmental watchdogs alone. The issue of marine plastics pollution affects all of us. We need to collectively take responsibility. But how can we help? In conjunction with Changing Tides, the girls have put together a plastic free guide outlining tips and suggestions on going plastic free. The aim is to encourage as many people as possible to follow in their footsteps, in any capacity large or small. They suggest starting with a plastics audit, a great way of determining your plastics usage, then working out ways to cut back. Have a look through the guide for inspiration and guidance.

According to The Globalist in 2017, the average person consumes 100kg of plastic each year. And Plastic Oceans told us in 2020 that ten million *tons (*U.S) of plastic is dumped into our oceans each. Each year. That’s a wake-up call for all of us.

These days, you’ll find Lucy and Mathilde continuing their conservation work in Queensland’s far north and fighting the good fight raising awareness against marine plastic pollution. Oh, and always searching for the next big adventure.

Changing Tides is produced by Lucy Graham, Mathilde Gordon and Akemi Walsh. You can catch Changing Tides at the 2021 Ocean Film Festival.

Tickets and screening times are available HERE

Words:  Brooke James