Water Whirled


By Kyle Hall / Photos by Justin Lewis

Bravely hitting the seven seas to make sure there’s something left of them for future generations, the handsome couple behind 70 Degrees West are at-least-knee-deep in an eight-stage documentary project to spread awareness of water issues. While the world’s water coverage is pretty damn vast (70 percent and rising), Michelle Stauffer, a North County-native writer/environmentalist who grew up dancing competitively for the Carlsbad Dance Center, and Justin Lewis, a Bay Area-born travel photographer with more than 45 countries under his belt, have narrowed their focus to a unique meridian that runs through eight ecosystems (hence the eight stages): 70 degrees west.

For their ambitious undertaking, 70 Degrees West, Stauffer and Lewis aim to document man’s impact on each of the ecosystems that lie along this longitude between the north and South Poles. The two-pronged project involves shooting a short film, and coupling still photos shot by Lewis with a narrative composed by Stauffer.

Having documented how climate change is affecting Inuit hunting traditions in Greenland and the restoration of a freshwater habitat in Maine, the duo is currently working on the Kickstarter-funded third phase of the project: exploration of plastic pollution in the Sargasso Sea surrounding Bermuda.

The target of their research is microplastics (microscopic plastic particles) resulting from the breakdown of plastic products in seawater. Bordered by four currents (the Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Current, Canary Current and North Atlantic Equitorial Current), the Sargasso Sea is a unique repository of these microplastics and other pollutants from all over the world, and the perfect place to study them.

To see what Stauffer and Lewis found on their latest endeavor, check out the freshly released photo-doc of their Sargasso Sea endeavor at, and stay tuned for the next segment of their adventure: a study of ocean acidification in the Caribbean. Sounds rough, but somebody’s gotta do it.

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