Swimming the length of the Danube | DW Documentary

Swimming the length of the Danube | DW Documentary
Chemistry professor Andreas Fath swims the length of the Danube to raise awareness about plastic waste. Four tonnes of microplastics end up in the Black Sea via the Danube every day — with consequences for people and the environment.

But the campaign is more than just PR: every day, his team takes water samples and analyses them for the microplastic particles, tire fragments and drug residue. The pollutants decimate biodiversity in the Danube. In human beings, microplastics weaken the immune system and can even cross the blood-brain barrier. Andreas Fath refuses to accept this — also out of pure self-interest: he is an enthusiastic competitive athlete and would rather swim in clean waters. Carola Grau followed him on his journey from the source to the mouth of the Danube.

I’m looking forward to the water to
finally getting started
from the Black Forest to the Black Sea
for eight weeks chemistry professor
Andrea Spot Will swim the entire length
of the Danube
2700 kilometers running through 10
countries the Danube is the second
longest river in Europe
thought’s mission to combat plastic
waste each day four tons of microplastic
from the Danube washes into the Black
Sea thought plans to head there braving
the cold storms and high waves an
adventure in the name of science
[Music]
the media have gathered by the Danube in
om for the start of his journey a
competitive swimmer all his life Andreas
fought hopes the publicity will draw
attention to the plastic waste problem
if I weren’t swimming they wouldn’t be
here this helps us spread the message so
hopefully things will change
because plastic waste is everywhere but
his swim is a science project too two
chemists from his team will collect
water samples all along the Route
starting where the brigock and Breg
streams converge to form the Danube here
they filter at 1 000 liters of water
looking for microplastics
back in ohm here the Danube is a chilly
12 degrees Celsius fat is always
accompanied by a kayak not just due to
the cold but to ensure his safety too
his wife is also on hand at the start
a team of eight organizes everything
from energy bars to speeches while
Andreas fought swims
I don’t have to do this but it gives me
more influence to change things I want
to do something meaningful with my time
on this planet I want to use it sensibly
not just as a consumer this is a
positive contribution I can make to
protect bodies of water
and it’s not completely selfless I admit
because I like to swim in open water
and preferably in clean water
but where does microplastic come from
how does it form like here in goonsburg
the team holds educational workshops too
thought rushes in to give talks reciting
the figures off by heart since 1950 when
mass production of plastic began we’ve
produced 8.3 billion tons of plastics of
that just nine percent is recycled
worldwide
microplastics can breach the blood-brain
barrier they accumulate in the brain and
weaken our immune system yet we ingest
plastic daily even from Salt Mills
it’s not just salt that comes out but
tiny fragments from the plastic
we put this in our food each week we
ingest about a credit card’s worth of
microplastic five grams
come
tire wear is also a source of
microplastics in the environment Tire
particles are washed from the streets
into the sewers and from there to The
Rivers here the brittle plastic in them
is ground down further by rocks and the
current
the team organizes cleanup sessions
along the Danube like here in inglestadt
their schedule is packed and Andreas
fought keeps giving interviews and
forgetting how cold he is
a hot shower now that really helps
this is
especially when you’re really Frozen
up to this point they’ve traveled by car
and spent the nights in hotels
but now they’ll continue by boat
it’s Captain Edgar Wilhelm jumped at the
chance to help
there’s still so much plastic floating
around at Sea so what Andreas is doing
swimming these 50 or 60 kilometers a day
I think it’s borderline ingenious
green skin they are
while Andreas is doing his duty in
swimming by The weltenborg Abbey in
Bavaria the boat is being converted to
provide living accommodation for 10
people
the water is also getting warmer now
it’s up to 13.5 degrees Celsius
how long were you in the water
he had been in since 9 30.
so six and a half hours I think for more
than 45 kilometers
all right
yo
the team is settling in the MS Marbach
will be their new floating home
they cast off for the first time
Captain Edgar Wilhelm has trained his
novice crew overnight and chemistry
student Tim collects water samples every
100 kilometers it’s part of his master’s
thesis
the samples will go to Vienna where
they’ll be checked for tire additives
Tire abrasion is one of the biggest
sources of microplastics and bodies of
water
they’ll also be checked for residue from
drugs fertilizer and plasticizers all
contaminants which are difficult to
filter out
the team will be on the boat for seven
weeks there are still 2400 kilometers to
go but the stomach flu is going around
forcing crew members to spend spells
lying in bed Andrea’s thought has been
spared that but he has an even bigger
problem
Tim can you do something with the
shoulder
the two neoprene wetsuits have rubbed
his skin raw should infection set in
that would spell the end of his
expedition but Andrea Scott refuses to
even think about that and just
concentrates on swimming every day a
membrane is applied to his foot that
resembles a piece of fish skin
it collects micropollutants in the water
so it’s called a sampler
there are pesticides on it plasticizers
artificial sweeteners corrosive agents
antibiotics radio contrast agents the
list is long
whether they use membranes filters or
depth probes the goal is always the same
to find the toxic chemicals that wind up
in the human body and even accumulate in
the brain but whose effects remain
largely unknown
but sometimes Andrea’s thought forgets
about all that
it was literally for me there’s a ritual
quality to swimming which is why I do it
rather than cycling or running and once
you jump in the water you’re underway in
a three-dimensional space
beforehand you’re grounded in two
dimensions
in the water you can move in all
directions
and it carries you when I have problems
stress at work or whatever as soon as I
enter the water everything’s easy
after two weeks Vienna is in sight next
all the water samples collected so far
will be offloaded and analyzed at the
University
thought’s wife Nicola and Son Moritz are
back and will accompany him all the way
to Bratislava the whole family is into
sports
after leaving Vienna the river flows
faster and grows Wilder this is one of
the most dangerous stretches of the
Danube with cross currents and
maelstroms suddenly there’s a rumbling
sound
a rock
for a moment we’re stuck
these rolling lumps of rock on the
riverbed act like a Mill and grind down
plastic in the water
after four weeks they’ve reached the
iron gates Gorge just one thousand
kilometers to go here the Danube runs
through the carpathians it looks idyllic
but
nuclear
the two chemists on board have set up
their lab to monitor the water quality
they’ve seen some shocking results
in Belgrade the water was really Brown
cloudy and even warmer I won’t swim in a
place where the feces of 1.7 million
people are fed into the water untreated
sometimes the Danube is
current fat makes little Headway instead
of his usual eight kilometers per hour
he manages just three still the water’s
warm 22 degrees Celsius
luckily there’s a big lock inside thot
isn’t allowed to swim through there
anyway
only when the captain has found a place
to drop anchor can he dig into
everyone on board tends to turn in early
they’re all tired out
[Music]
two weeks later just 500 kilometers to
go in jaju Romania they’re holding a
workshop with school children here
conservationists are campaigning for a
Nationwide Recycling system it breaks
into small little pieces and you see
this on the edges here
okay something missing presentation
after a few more Workshops the team is
packing up thought has entered the home
stretch he’s just 15 kilometers from the
Finish he’s not home free yet it’s
dangerous here but the organizer
prepared Fat’s wife Nicola for that
Mario warned me before that lots of
speed boats fly by and don’t expect a
swimmer to be here
and Andrea’s thought is almost wistful
tomorrow it’s over sometimes it was nice
at least at the end sometimes it was
more like torture
thank you
2700 kilometers lie behind him analyzing
the water samples will still take months
but what counts now is that fat has made
it his son Moritz accompanies him for
the final stretch
I know he’s glad I’m here and that makes
me even happier
[Applause]
foreign
the Old Port City of Selena and
kilometer zero they’ve reached the
Finish but to take a photo to remember
this special moment they have to keep
going on foot
fudge may have done all the swimming but
this really was a team effort
thank you
now there’s only one thing left for
Andrea spot to do take a dip in the
Black Sea after that it’s back to
lectures and lab work
[Music]

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