Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Vessel Has Arrived!!!

September 30, 2007

ORV Alguita has arrived safely in Hilo, Hawaii after a very successful voyage!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Answers to Student Questions

Here are answers to a few of the excellent questions that have been sent in. Keep checking back if your question hasn't been answered yet- more answers will be posted throughout this week, and questions that have already been answers might receive more comments. If you asked an important question that didn't get answered- go ahead and send it in again with a note that you are sending it for a second time. It is possible that your question didn't go through the first time- this is a new system and we are just getting used to it! Thank you all for your participation and fascinating questions!!


Questions and Answers

Hi my name is Cristina Toves and I am an 11th grade Marine Biology student at George Washington High School in Guam. I have a question regarding your current expedition.
Our class watched a video entitled "Our Synthetic Sea" which was based on one of your previous expeditions. At the time, the amount of zooplankton was 1 pound for every 6 pounds of plastic.
My question is has this statistic improved or has it got worse?
I would really appreciate an answer.
Thanks, Cristina


Cristina,
We would also like to know the answer to your question! It will take many hours back in the lab to analyze the samples collected on this voyage before we know how the numbers compare. Judging by Captain Moore's qualitative observations of the samples it unfortunately it does not look like the problem has improved at all. We will let you know how the results turn out after the lab work is done!


Hi my name is Shaelene, I go to George Washington high school on Guam.
And about the blog basically what is a ghost net used for because I never heard of it? And how long does it usually take you to get to where you want to go by boat?
I think the things that you are doing and experiencing is really neat and I would like to learn more about your experience....

Shaelene,
A "ghost net" is the name used for a fishing net that was either discarded or lost at sea. The net continues to catch and kill marine life as it floats through the water. Here is a website where you can learn more about ghost nets

http://www.ghostnets.com.au/

How long it takes to get somewhere in a sailboat is very dependant on the wind. Yesterday ORV Alguita was scheduled to arrive in Hilo on the 1st of October. Then the wind picked up from a more favorable angle- now the scheduled arrival time is the afternoon of September 30th.

Hi my name is Nico from George Washington High School and currently studying marine biology.
I was wondering what was the most interesting finding since your expedition began?

Nico,
I will ask the crew tomorrow when they arrive in Hilo what the most interesting finding was on the entire trip. I would also like to ask that of you- of all of the experiences and findings that the crew shared what did you find to be the most interesting?

You can *smell* red tide??? I've seen these algal blooms along British Columbia's coastline at times, one summer being remarkable for such a widespread shellfish closure...every anchorage was rose-coloured... but I've never smelled it. Perhaps this is late in the bloom and there are a lot of dead cells decomposing on the surface??

Yes, at times red tides can be quite stinky (ask Florida residents they know.) Often the really strong odors are due to eutrophication caused by the red tide that leads to depletion of oxygen in the water and subsequently to the death and decay of many fish and other species.

Hello from Griffin, GA. We are wondering if most of the plastic found in the ocean is from large trash barges that dump their load miles off shore OR from manufacturers OR from the litter generated by everyday people that gets into the watersheds and eventually the ocean? Thanks!

Great question from Griffin Georgia. The answer is yes to all of the above! Researchers are asking the same question and are trying to determine the sources of debris in the ocean. One way to determine the origin of the debris is by identifying what it is. Plastic pellets (“Nurdles”) found in the ocean in horrible quantities have almost certainly escaped from the manufacturing and shipping process. And yes, a very significant quantity of the garbage found in the water is post consumer- much of which likely washed down the watershed as litter.

It's interesting to know that there are many plastics and jelly fishes that look alike. Which of the two did you find more often?

Kia,
Great question. We may not have kept a count of plastic vs. jellyfish but after we analyze the samples we will know if we found more plastic than zooplankton by weight.

My name is Brianne and I am a student at George Washington High School. My Marine Biology teacher, Ms. Tatreau, has informed us that if we wished to ask a question, we may email it to you. We are currently studying the effects of plastic in our ocean, and how it affects us. My question would be, "After all the research your team has been doing, do you think we can ever find a safer way to dispose of all the plastic in the world? And what do you think will work as a substitute that is enviromentally safe?"

yours truly,
Brianne

Brianne, your question is a tough one.
In the face of such an immense problem it can be hard to feel optimistic about solutions can't it? At the same time I don’t think any of us would be working so hard on the research if we didn’t have some hope that what we are doing can make a difference and that things can change for the better. Certainly it would be very challenging to find a safer way to dispose of all the plastic if we continue manufacturing so much of it. Much of the plastic that is being produced is being used for disposable products. There are companies that are making some of these disposable products such as cups and packaging materials out of plant based materials that are biodegradable. Of course, the most obvious environmentally safe alternative is giving up disposables. Much of the plastic waste that we generate is completely unnecessary. Why buy a new plastic bottle every time you want to drink water and unless you are in a hospital bed do you really need to drink out of a straw? Humans have survived just fine without plastic for the majority of their existence on this planet. If we were clever enough to invent plastic hopefully we can use our inventiveness to find a better alternative. That alternative may include inventing new products to replace plastic or it may be as simple as turning to old technologies that didn’t require the use of so much plastic. I think the answer may be both- what do you think?

Hi my name is Nico from George Washington High School and currently studying marine biology. I was wondering how will your research change peoples perspectives on plastics that are in the ocean?

Nico, we hope to change people’s perspectives on plastics in the ocean by sharing our discoveries about the quantities of plastic marine debris along with a better understanding of the problems caused by plastics in the marine environment. We will have to wait and see whether this strategy of sharing knowledge works to change perspectives. Probably the quickest answer will be to ask yourself “ did what I learned about ORV Alguita’s research change my perspectives on plastics in the ocean?”

The Chelmsford lions have asked many excellent questions. Here are a few answers with more to come!!!

The Chelmsford lions wanted to know if the crew can already differentiate between the different types of plastics they're finding. We know in our town recycling we sort by the number in the triangle. Are the plastics still in such shape that items that were given these numbers can still be seen on them?

Sometimes large enough pieces are found that we can still recognize the numbers indicating the type of plastic. It is also possible to run tests to differentiate plastic type. In many of our experiments we sort the plastic fragments by size and color and we are interested in what size and color of fragments tend to get eaten by sea creatures.

Does the crew have a hypothesis already on what numbers deteriorate fastest? Are you taking water samples with the plastic because a faster deteriorating plastic might give off chemicals into the water that might be toxic to some life?

Very close, actually the plastic tends to absorb the toxic chemicals from the water. Many of the persistent organic pollutants are molecules that are “hydrophobic” and not soluble in water. These hydrophobic compounds pass from the water into the plastic leading to much higher concentration of these pollutants in the plastic. This could be a problem when the plastic is eaten by marine animals. Some kinds of plastics do absorb pollutants more readily than others. Dr Rios will be comparing the quantity of pollutants in the water with the plastic to see how much the plastic concentrates the toxins.

Who decides what research projects your ship will undertake? Does the crew change with the assignment?

The boat does research on plastic debris through the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The boat is also chartered out to different institutions to do various research projects. Last spring the boat was involved in a research project studying nesting seabirds in Mexico. The crew does change with the assignments but the captain is always the same!

Will any of the crew follow the plastic and do some of the testing on the plastic?

Absolutely! The plastic that is collected will analyzed back in the lab. Dr. Rios will take some of the plastic back to her laboratory at the University of the Pacific to analyze the Persistent Organic Pollutants that have absorbed into the plastic from the ocean water. Other samples will be sorted and weighed to come up with the ratio of the mass of plastic to zooplankton in a given volume of water.

Hi! I'm Keishia from George Washington High School in Guam. I waswondering if you had a reply for my previous question:"What has been the most interesting or strangest thing you have found thus far? And what measures are you taking to either promote it or solve it?"

Keisha,

The strangest animal seen was the Mola Mola- large creatures such as this in the Garbage Patch are unusual, and this was the first Mola Mola the Captain has seen in this region. The strangest piece of debris seen was a hockey stick!!

I would also like to ask you another question, I've heard from my Marine Biology teacher that your research journey is coming to an end. I would like to know is there any conclusion you have come up with on your findings? Thanks!

Keisha, analysis of the samples will take a long time! It will take months of hard work to separate the plastic from the zooplankton and for Dr. Rios to analyze the pollutants attached to the plastic. We will let you know what we find! Our qualitative observations of the samples lead us to believe that the problem of plastic debris has gotten much worse.


Question from Radford College Canberra, Australia. Does the Plastic Dust affect plants like the Giant Kelp?

Excellent Question, and the answer is that we don’t know. A high school student in San Diego did an excellent experiment looking at how plastic debris effected zooplankton and phytoplankton. She found that the plastic had a negative effect on the zooplankton but not the phytoplankton. Of course giant kelp is not planktonic for much of its life cycle. Do you have any ideas for an experiment that could be used to answer this question?


More Questions from the Chelmsford Lions;
We, also wanted to know how you knew this garbage field was there. Can it be seen be satellites? How would you know if you are in the middle of it or still heading in?

NOAA has used low flying aircraft with sophisticated camera gear to find larger debris such as ghost nets but the small fragments we study would be very difficult to detect from space.

We are studying the main ocean gyres and we were wondering if there is a garbage field within each ocean gyre. We were wondering if the Atlantic Ocean had this too!

Yes there are and they are connected by great debris highways. The gyres are like compressors that receive debris then spin it out. The “garbage patch” in the Atlantic is called the Sargasso Sea. To our knowledge no one has been following the debris amounts there since the 70’s- let us know if you can find any more information out!


Nearing Hilo



September 28-29, 2007
We hadn't seen another ship for four days, the radar had objects that looked like ships at a distance, but on closer approach were rain squalls. This morning we passed the freighter Pacific Logger, heading northeast. The wind shifts about 20 degrees around these squalls and the wind velocity rises and falls, so the helsman must be alert. Now we have finised getting all the samples we could and are relaxing, enjoying our sailboat. The climate is becomming tropical. We are sailing good and fast and getting pounded and sprayed by the seas like we were in a carwash. Some of the crew members have been enjoying letting themselves get sprayed by breaking waves. The more we look at and enjoy this part of the ocean, the sadder we feel about the damage we are doing to her and her creatures, which, at the end of the day, will have consequences for us humans. We have just gotten a visit from our first Brown booby, which flies around Alguita diving on flying fish scared up by her wake. Tomorrow we will arrive in Hilo with a mind set completely different than the day we embarked on this mission. Just seeing how much waste plastic is floating in these waters had awakened a desire to try to do something for our planet and for ourselves as well. I'm Sure each one of us will change our habits in our use and discarding of non-biodfegradable plastics.
Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, PhD.

Septiembre 28-29 del 2007.
No hemos visto ningun barco en los ultimos cuatro dias, el radar nos marca objetos a la distancia que parecieran barcos pero no, solamente son lluvias. Sin embargo, esta manana vimos un carguero el "Pacific Logger" llendo hacia el noreste. El viento cambia unos 20 grados alrededor de las lluvias y la velocidad del viento esta aumentando y disminuyendo, asi que la persona que esta a cargo del piloto, debe estar muy alerta. Por ahora, ya terminamos de hacer todas las tomas de muestras que pudimos, por lo que todos nos encontramos en un estado de relaxacion disfruntando del velero. El clima empieza a sentirse caluroso. La velociadad a la que estamos veleando en bastante buena y rapida, con lo que tambien estamos teniendo chapusones de agua de mar. Es como si el Alguita estuviera en un lavadero de carros. Algunos miembros de la tripulacion ya ha sentido este agradable salpicon de agua. Mientras mas observamos y disfrutamos esta porcion de oceano, mas nos sentimos culpables por el dano que le estamos haciendo al oceano y a sus habitantes, que al final de cuentas todo va a recaer en nosostros, los humanos. Algunas veces tenemos visitas por parte de las aves marinas, que vuelan alrededor de la Alguita como investigando que somos o quienes somos. Manana arribaremos a HIlo, Hawaii, con una mentalidad totalmente diferente al dia que nos embarcamos a esta mision. Tan solo el ver cuanto desperdicio plastico hay flotando dentro de estas aguas nos ha despertado un claro sentimiento de tratar de hacer algo por la naturaleza en general y por nosotros mismos. Estoy segura de que cada uno de nosotros cambiara sus habitos con relacion al uso y desuso del plastico no biodegradable.
Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, PhD

Friday, September 28, 2007

A turn to the left speeds things up...

September 27, 2007
This afternoon we sampled the second phytoplankton bloom area for NOAA. While filtering water through a microfilter, and simultaneously manta trawling, we noticed a ghost net floating by. 'we immediately through our red marker buoy, hauled in the manta and turned around to try to relocate the ghost net. Although we were only a few hundred yards away from the buoy when we turned around, with the wind blowing 15-20 knots, we were unable to relocate the net. After finishing the plankton sampling, we made sail and are now close reaching under mainsail and genoa jib, bound for Hilo Hawaii, where we plan to arrive on the morning of October 1. We have turned left from our westward route and are now heading south. This affords an angle to the steady, strong northeast trade winds that our hybrid reasearch vessel finds particularly favorable. Before we made this course change, we were broad reaching downwind, and a particularly violent swell caused our mast to lurch and snap off the masthead light tower. We had to take the bosuns chair up to the top and cut it free. The sound of the engines are a distant memory as we sail along at 8-9 knots and charge our battery banks with a kilowatt of BP solar panels. We are making our own drinking water with a 12 volt reverse osmosis desalinization system using solar energy. The view of ORV Alguita attached to this log was taken before the panels were added to a roof built above the after deck. Alguita is now the only hybrid research vessel doing major studies on the high seas. Hopefully, more vessels will eventually follow suit and become more energy efficient. We look forward to the day when we pull into port and call for the vegetable oil tanker truck to come down to the dock and top off our fuel tanks.
Our noon position was 29 36 N, 153 24 W. Given the favorable winds and point of sail that keep us making between 8-9 knots, we believe our ETA Hilo will be the morning of Oct. 1.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

Septiembre 27 del 2007.
Esta tarde muestreamos la segunda muestra dentro del area de crecimietno acelerado (bloom) de fitoplancton para la NOAA. Mientras estabamos filtrando el agua atraves de un microfiltro y al mismo tiempo teniamos la manta filtrando dentro del mar, cuando nos dimos cuentra de una red fantasma (ghost net) que estaba flotando a un lado de nosotros. Inmediatamente marcamos el area enviando nuestra boya roja, tomamos la manta de regreso al barco y regresamos a localizar la red fantasma. Aunque estuvimos a solo unos cuantos metros de la boya, cuando dimos la vuelta con un viento soplando de 15-20 nudos, increiblemente fuimos incapaces de relocalizar la red. Despues de terminar la coleccion de muestra de placton, comenzamos a velear, usando la vela principal y foque genovesa y ahora estamos mas cerca de nuestro punto final, Hilo Hawaii. Nuestro plan de arrivo es en la manana de octubre primero. Dimos una vuelta a la izquierda de nuestra ruta hacia el oeste y ahora navegamos hacia el sur. Esto soporta un angulo estacionario, con vientos fuertes al norte que para nuestro barco hibrido de investigacion es bastante favorable. Antes de hacer este cambio de curso, estuvimos bajo fuertes vientos y sobre todo un fuerte oleaje que provoco que nuestro mastil perdiera la luz de su torre al desprenderse el bulbo. Tube que ponerme la silla para escalar, subir y cortar el bulbo para su total desprendimiento. El sonido de las maquinas son una recuerdo pasado ya que vamos veleando entre 8 y 9 nudos y con la carga de nuestro banco de baterias con un kilowatage de BP paneles solares. Estamos produciendo nuestra agua para tomar usando la energia solar alamacenada en una pila de 12 voltios y un sistema desalinizador usando osmosis reversa. Una fotografia de una vista desde lo alto del mastil , antes de poner los paneles solares en la parte de arriva sobre la popa, del del ORV Alguita se esta anexando a este correo. El Alguita es el unico barco hybrido de investigacion que por ahora, estra haciendo grandes estudios en alta mar. Esperamos que mas barcos eventualmente sigan nuestro camino de usar mas eficientemente la enegia. Ahora, miramos hacia el pasado, a el dia en que llenamos nuestros tanques de combustible de aceite vegetal, en el puerto.
Aloha desde el ORV Alguita.
Nuestra posicion fue 29 36 N, 153 24 W. Con vientos favorables y las velas en tal punto que permiten una velociada de 8 a 9 nudos, por lo que creemos que nuestra ETA Hilo sera en la manana del primero de octubre.
NOTA: este mensaje fue escrito sin acentos.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Chart of ORV Alguita's Voyage


For those of you who have not had a chance to chart ORV Alguita's research voyage, Brooksbank Elementary School in Vancouver, Canada, has been kind enough to share a Google Earth image of the ships voyage. Click on the image in order to get a close-up view. If you want to learn how to chart the voyage in Google Earth visit;
http://orvalguita.googlepages.com/oceanographicresearch

Thank you Brooksbank Elementary- WELL DONE!!!!

Get Involved in Plastic Debris Research! International Pellet Watch

Dear Students and Teachers,
I have just attended a lecture by Dr. Hideshige Takada from Tokyo, Japan. He studies persistent organic pollutants using beached pre-production plastic pellets or "nurdles" collected from the beaches by volunteers for "International Pellet Watch." You can contribute by going to your local beach and collecting at least 50 "nurdles"(plastic pellets) to send to him for analysis! All the information you need in order to participate is located on the International Pellet Watch Website;
http://www.tuat.ac.jp/~gaia/ipw/index.html

Holly Gray
ORV Alguita Vessel Support Coordinator
September 26, 2007

Today, as we approached the phytoplankton bloom than may be associated with debris, that we were asked to sample by NOAA, two crew members independently reported the occasional odor of red tide, although there was nothing visible in the water from above to indicate an algal bloom. Upon hauling in a 1.5 hour manta trawl, we were shocked to see what appeared to be the highest ratio of plastic to zooplankton ever sampled. It would not suprise me if it was over 1000 to one, plastic to plankton (see photo). We did several other manta trawls, all with orders of magnitude more plastic than our 1999 study. We also stopped to pick up a tire with a heavily rusted metal rim, covered in algae and barnacles. The amouint of larger plastic pieces floating by continues to astound the ship's crew. We took one liter samples of sea water preserved in 1% formalin for later plankton ID, and in the evening, as we made sail during a squall, the crew was treated to a full arch "moonbow," a rainbow illuminated by the full moon, showing dim rainbow colors. Tomorrow we sample an arm of the phytoplankton bloom.
Aloha from ORV Alguita.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

Hi! my name is Tiara & I am one of Ms.Tatreau`s students at George Washington High. Is there any law that says that you should dispose of plastics properly? If so ,why isn’t it being enforced powerfully? Also is debri in the ocean really contributing to global warming? (George Washington High, Guam)

Hi Tiara, there is an international treaty, a law of the sea, created by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO is sort of like a United Nations for the sea. The have a series of regulations on Marine Pollution by ships called MARPOL. In Annex V, there is a prohibition on dumping plastic anywhere in the ocean, and any country who signs the treaty
is supposed to make sure the ships registered there obey the law. Two factors mitigate against powerful enforcement of MARPOL. One is that countries often do no have the ability to monitor what ships are doing with their plastic waste at sea, the other is that ports where the ships call may not care whether they are obeying the law and bringing their plastic back
with them, or they may not have facilites to take the plastic waste. Another factor that makes MARPOL less than powerful is that some countries didn't sign the treaty, so they are not bound by the rules. As far as laws on land go, there are no specific laws regulating how plastics should be treated after they are used. It might not be a bad idea to create restrictions on how plastics are used and discarded in general.

With regard to your second question, plastic waste is not likely a major factor in global warming, but there are two ways it may be contributing to it. One is covering the sea floor. Plastic waste is beginning to create an impermeable layer to CO2 at the bottom of the ocean where it is normally sequestered. If CO2 can't make it into the pore waters of the sediments on the ocean
floor, it will not be taken out of the atmosphere as quickly. Secondly, plastic floating in the ocean, which we can testify is widely present, blocks solar radiation into the ocean which feeds the phytoplankton, the plants which are primary producers of oxygen. So less oxygen and more CO2 means more global warming.

Hola Tiara, existe un tratado internacional, la Ley del Mar, creada por la Organizacion Internacional Marina (IMO, por sus siglas en ingles). La IMO es una especie de Naciones Unidas para el mar. Ellos tienen una serie de regulaciones en Contaminacion Marina por los barcos llamada MARPOL. En su Anexo V, hay una prohibicion de tirar desechos plasticos en cualquier parte del oceano y se supone que todos los paises que firmaron este tratado no deben permitir que sus barcos desobedescan esta ley. Sin embargo, existen
dos factores que disminuyen la accion de esta ley encabezada por MARPOL, uno es el que los paises involucrados muchas veces no tienen las facilidades de monitorear que es lo que sus barcos estan haciendo con sus desechos plasticos cuando estan en el mar. La segunda, es que en los puertos donde los barcos llegan puede que no se tenga el cuidado de verificar si estan obedeciendo esta Ley y esten regresando sus plasticos al arribar, o simplemente no se cuente con contenedores para dejar la basura plastica. Otro factor que hace que MARPOL tenga poco poder es que algunos paises no firmaron este tratado, asi que en su derecho no tienen porque seguir las reglas de este tratado. De la misma manera que en las leyes terrestres, no existe leyes especificas para la regulacion de como deberian de tratarse los plasticos despues de su uso. Definitivamente, no seria mala idea crear restricciones en como los plasticos deberian de ser tratados despues de su uso y de su desecho en general. Con relacion a tu segunda pregunta, los desechos plasticos no son parte del principal factor en calentamiento global. Sin embargo, ellos pueden contribuir en dos formas, una es cubriendo el suelo marino. Los desechos plasticos estan creando una capa impermeable de CO2 en el fondo del oceano donde este es normalmente, secuestrado. Si el CO2 no puede ir a los poros de agua de los sedimentos marinos, este no podra ser expulsado a la atmosfera muy rapido. El segundo factor es que con los plasticos flotando en el oceano, el cual podemos testificar esta altamente presente, estan afectando los bloques de radiacion solar en el oceano que alimenta al fitoplacton, las plantas marinas que son los principales productores de oxigeno. De este modo menos oxigeno se producira y habra mas CO2 que nos lleva a incrementar el calentamiento global.

Where were you (Lat/Long) when you began to feel the shift in pressure and younger debris? [In reference to the post about the different rings of debris] (Brooksbank Elementary, Canada)

September 24, Latitude 32 46 N Longitude 146 46 we left the two inner rings of nearly equal high pressure, 1029-1024 millibars. From then until today, 9-26, we haven't stopped seeing plastic in all sizes, forms and colors. We've seen so much waste plastic that we are ashamed for the ecological havoc we are causing with our plastic contamination of the ocean. We've also taken trawl samples and seen how much more plastic there is than life. What is this telling us, the animal that reasons?

Septiembre 24, Latitud 32 46 N Longitud 146 46 W, dejamos los dos primeros
anillos de mas o menos igual alta presion, 1029 - 1024 milibars. Desde este dia hasta hoy , Septiembre 26, no hemos dejado de plastico por doquier en todos tamanos, formas y colores. Hemos; visto pasar tanto desecho plastico que sentimos verguenza por el desastre ecologico que estamos provocando con esta terrible contaminacion plastica. Tambien hemos tomado muestras de fragmentos plasticos y nos hemos llevado la sorpresa desagradable de encontrar mas
plastico que organismos, que es lo que esto nos esta indicando:? que mas necesitamos saber convencernos del gran dano que este desecho plastico esta produciendo y que nos esta afecta de alguna manera a nosotros la raza pensante?
NOTA: este mensaje fue escrito sin acentos.




Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September 25, 2007

September 25, 2007

It's Thomas Morton here. This morning at a little before noon we hit the middle of the 149th meridian and 32nd parallel and sailed right into the biggest field of plastic debris we've seen this entire trip. For the better part of an hour we were completely surrounded by a steady stream of garbage, ranging from fairly large fragments to fully formed buckets, water and motor oil bottles, and smaller ghost nets just below the surface. You honestly couldn't turn away for more than 20 seconds without missing something jaw-dropping float on by--although sometimes it was more like 5 or 10. It's safe to say that by 12:30 we'd seen more crap pass the ship than we'd seen over the entirety of any previous day out here. For a while I wasn't sure we'd ever see the end of it, which I can't say for sure we have even an hour later as I write this. Ever since I first read about the patch, this is what I've pictured in my mind. In fact, up until this morning I'd say probably the greatest effect of this whole voyage has been to condition my mind to step away from its sensationalistic preconceptions and come to terms with the awful and unglamorous reality of plastic inundation. After spending two weeks focusing on the more-or-less invisible, to be brought face to face with the sea of endless flotsam I'd envisioned was far more affecting than I feel it would have been, had we just come straight to this right away instead of crossing in from the north. For all the flippancy with which I've been blabbing on about "Garbage Island" in the weeks leading up to this journey, this certainly puts a big, plastic cork in my pie-hole. Our noon position was 32 24 N., 149 24 W.

Soy Tomas Morton, esta manana un poco antes del medio dia arribamos al 149o. meridiano con el 32o. paralelo y veleamos justo dentro de la area mas grande de basura plastica que hayamos visto en todo este viaje. Durante toda una hora estuvimos completamente sumergidos en una corriente estacionaria de basura. Basura que hiba desde fragmentos medianos a grandes hasta cubetas completas, enteras y botellas de agua y aceite, inclusive una pequena red fantasma justo debajo de la superficies. Uno no podia, honestamente ni voltearse por unos 20 segundos sin perderse de algun desecho flotante, aunque habia veces que ni siquiera 5 o 10 segundos de distraccion se nos permitia. Con toda seguridad se puede decir que a las 12:30 pudimos ver mas desperdicios pasar por doquier por debajo o por los lados de la Alguita y esta ha sido la experiencia mas desagradable de todos los dias anteriores que hemos estado en la zona. Por lo pronto, no estoy tan seguro de si hemos visto el final de esto, por heyo no estoy seguro si una hora despues, cuando estube escribiendo esto, aun seguian pasado desperdicios plasticos. Aun cuando la primera vez que lei acerca del parche, esta habia sido la vision que tenia en mi mente. De hecho, hasta esta manana diria que probablemente ha sido la primera etapa del efecto mas grande para condicionar mi mente un paso mas alla de esta sensacionalista preconcepcion y llegar a los terminos de esta horrorosa y nada elegante realidad de la inundacion del plastico. Despues de estar dos semanas enfocado en mas o menos invisible desperdicio, de pronto nos encontramos cara a cara con un mar que parece no terminar con la basura flotante que habia imaginado, sin embargo, esto es mas grotesco de lo que definitivamente habia pensado. Asi que me pregunto que habria pasado si hubieramos llegado justo a este punto en vez de llegar del norte. Por toda esta frivolidad con la cual habia hablando acerca de la "Isla del Parche" en estas semanas principalmente para este viaje, este hecho, ciertamente me ha puesto un gran tapon de plastico en la boca. Nuestro posicion de mediodia fue 32 24 N., 149 24 W. NOTA: este mensaje fue escrito sin acentos.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Rings of the Gyre


September 24, 2007

When we look at the surface pressure of the atmosphere in our area of the eastern north Pacific, which we receive daily from http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml, we see a series of gyrating concentric circles that define the subtropical high known as the north Pacific gyre. These circles define areas in which the atmospheric pressure is uniform. We are coming to view these areas as rings of trash with different characteristics. The direction of the winds that drive our sails follows the rings in a clockwise rotation. When we were in the center ring, it was very hard to sail. Not only were the winds light, but they changed direction frequently as they spiraled down from the peak of the mountain of air above us. We mostly had to motor to get to the second band. The plastic in our trawls was in general made up of smaller fragments, indicating that they had been trapped inside the ring for a long time, breaking apart. We are now in the second ring of high pressure and are suprised by how much larger the fragments are that we are pulling up, both by hand net from the bow, and in our trawls. We theorize that the debris being hauled into the gyre goes through a disintegration process as it spirals to the center, where it may revolve for decades. See sample from 9-22 vs sample from 9-24.

9-22

9-24
Since we have been moving to an area of high concentration of debris, predicted by Dave Foley and his group, we have seen debris more frequently. We even saw a large log today, about 4 meters long and 0.5 meter in diameter, covered in barnacles. The filmakers were out in the dingy, and couldn't go over a wave without pulling up a plastic oil can or bottle, piece of rope or large plastic fragment. Tomorrow will be a travel day, downwind to the west under spinnaker, in order to arrive at the sampling site for phytoplankton that are blooming where debris accumulations may exist.
Aloha from ORV Alguita



Septiembre 24 del 2007.

Cuando hemos revisado a la presion superficial de la atmosfera en nuestra area de muestreo en el Noreste del Pacifico, el cual recivimos de http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml, se ve una serie de giros erraticos en circulos concentricos que definen lo que conocemos en el Giro del Pacifico Norte como alto subtropical. Estos circulos definen areas en la cual la presion atmosferica es uniforme. Estamos comenzando a ver estas areas como anillos de basura con diferentes caracteristicas. La direccion de los vientos que dirigen nuestro velero sigue estos anillos en una rotacion en direccion a las manecillas del reloj. Sin embargo, cuando estuvimos en el centro del anillo fue muy dificil velear. No solo porque los vientos son ligeros sino porque tambien cambian de direccion frecuentemente como una espiral hacia abajo del pico de la montana arriba de nosotros. Ahora estamos en el segundo anillo de alta presion y nos ha sorprendido las altas concentraciones de fragmentos grandes que estan siendo empujados hacia el centro, tanto a mano usando una red de cono, como en nuestros sistemas de arrastre con red. Estamos teorizando que la basura esta siendo jalada hacia dentro del giro y aqui se esta llevando el proceso de una desintegracion. manteniendo un movimiento de espiral hacia el centro del giro, donde se puede mezclar por decadas. Vean la muestra tomada en Sept. 22 contra la muestra tomada en Sept. 24. Dado que nos hemos movido a una area de alta concentracion de basura plastica, ya anteriormente predicha por Dave Foley y su grupo, estamos encontrando frecuentemente mas desechos plasticos en fragmentos. Incluso este medio dia pudimos ver un leno grande de unos 4 metros de largo y unos 0.5 metros de diametro, totalmente cubierto de barnaculos. Los filmadores salieron en nuestro dingy y no pudieron pasar las olas sin dejar de ver plastico flotando, ellos agarraron una lata de plastico de aceite o una botella, trozos de cuerdas o fragmentos grandes de plasticos. Manana viajaremos todo el dia, abajo de la vela de popa (spinnaker) para llegar a la zona de muestreo solicitada para fitoplacton que esta en acelerado crecimiento donde la acumulacion de basura plastica ya existe.

Aloha desde el ORV Alguita

NOTA: este mensaje fue escrito sin acentos.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Styrofoam Cube



September 23, 2007

This morning we hauled up a large hunk of styrofoam sporting a six-foot-long tail of rope completely covered in pelagic barnacles. Some of the barnacles were bigger than any we'd seen on this trip so far--in one case nearly the size of golf ball--leading us to wonder at just how long this foamberg has been floating free to acumulate such growth. At least a couple of years, since a resourceful fisherman made a float of discarded, expanded polystyrene, that had perhaps been part of a floating dock.

This afternoon we received a request from Dave Foley, ghostnet tracker extraordinaire at NOAA to obtain phytoplankton samples from an area experiencing a bloom associated with marine debris. It seems that the "jumbo jet" of phytoplankton, buoyant diatoms known as Rhizoselenia that are up to 1mm in diameter may be associated with marine debris. Currently there is a bloom not far from our route at 31 20 N, 153 40 W.
We have programmed this waypoint into our navigational system and are looking at the best winds to sail there. Our fuel is limited, so we need to travel using our sail (wind) power.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

Septiembre 23, 2007.

Esta manana agarramos un cubo grande de fomi agarrado a una cuerda de unos 2.5 metros cubierta completamente cubierta de bernaculos palagicos. Algunos de estos bernaculos son realmente grandes, son los mas grandes que hemos encontrado a traves de varios viajes- en algunos casos su tamano es como el de una pelota de golf- esto nos lleva a preguntar que tanto tiempo habra estado flotando libremente en el oceano que ha podido acumular todos estos organismos y permitirles su crecimiento. Pensamos que por lo menos deben haber sido un par de anos, porque este puedo haber sido un artefacrto hecho por algun pescador y lo deshusaron. El poliestireno expandible puede haber sido parte de alguna plataforma flotante. Este cubo fue hayado en la siguiente posicion latitud 35o 00.037 N 145o 51.414 W.

Esta tarde recibimos la peticion por parte de Dave Foley, la persona encargada del seguimiento de las redes fantasmas por parte de la NOAA, acerca de tomar muestras de fitoplacton cerca de una area que esta experimentando un crecimiento ("bloom') asociado con la basura marina. Al parecer esta pluma de fitoplacton, diatomeas flotantes conocidas como Rhizoselenia que no son mas grandes de un mm en diametro, pudieran estar asociadas con los desechos marinos. Actualmente hay un crecimiento acelerado no mas alla de nuestra ruta a 31 20N, 153 40 W.
Hemos programado nuestro sistema de navegacion hacia ese punto y al mismo tiempo estamos buscando vientos fuertes para poder velear. Nuestro combustible es limitado, asi que tendremos que usar la fuerza del viento y nuestras velas para avanzar hacia nuestro objetivo. Nuestro posicion medio dia fue 34 53 N, 145 52 W.

Saludos, Aloha desde ORV Alguita.

Note to Holly:
Left off our email yesterday was our noon position: 34 53 N, 145 52 W-- Holly GrayORV Alguita Vessel Support Coordinatorvesselsupport@algalita.org424.212.9679

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ghost Net


September 22, 2007
According to Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the ocean is constantly knitting. She weaves things together, in general sewing similar materials with a gentle "rock and weave" stitch. Today, we discovered a hundred pound ball of mixed fabric and thread for "King Neptune's quilt." We had reached "the calm," the center of the largest, stable high pressure system in the world, and we were spotting and netting off the bow- all sorts of pieces of plastic debris that had floated to the surface. We spotted a small ghost net and threw a buoy over to mark the area, but, on turning the boat and going back, we couldn't relocate it after a 1/2 hour search. The next net we saw was considerably larger, at about 100 pounds out of the water.
Bloggers: Dr. Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, Dr. Joseph Goodman, Captain Charles Moore
From Dr. Joeseph Goodman, Ship's Physician
The Ghost Net: When I was swimming toward the ghost net in the clam of the ocean I could see it right on the surface, but as I viewed the net up close, my wave action from just swimming near the ghostnet, caused the net to sink fast. It took about 10 mintues for this large collection of waste, mostly from fisherman to return to the surface. How much more is down there that we cannot see? We carry three solar powered satellite position transmitting buoys onboard from Airborne Technologies. I called Tim Veenstra at Airborne and received permission to deploy one of his valuable floating position transmitters. It was tied to the ghostnet and released at 36 37.208 N, 144 55.417 W. In the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spends 2 million US dollars per year to remove 60 tons of derelict fishing nets and gear in an effort to save the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal, over 200 of which have become entangled since records were kept. By the use of tracking buoys like the one we deployed, NOAA plots the location of congregations of these killers of 100 thousand marine mammals per year in the North Pacific, and coordinates retrieval efforts. Our noon position was 36 38 N, 144 34 W.


From Dr. Lorena Rios Septiembre 22, 2007 Hoy al igual que cada dia hubo algo especial, hoy encontramos una red o varias redes de las llamadas "gost nets" o redes fantasmas porque no necesitan al pescador. Bueno lo importante e impresionante es que encontramos toda esta serie de redes enredadas que simulaban un arrecife artificial en medio del Giro del Pacifico. Para todos fue impactante este encuentro y tambien preocupante, porque tenemos que hacer algo para no seguir danando a la naturaleza. Tambien encontramos mucho macroplastico y en los muestreos de arrastre con la malla llamada manta estamos encontrando altas concentraciones de microplastico. Hoy tambien nos sucedio un hecho incredible, vimos una pequena red con cuerdas, ola marcamos con dos boyas y cuando nos disponiamos a sacarlas del oceano, no las encontramos!, buscamos y buscamos y nada. Se lanzaron tres nadadores y nada no encontramos nada. La pregunta aqui es, tan rapido se puede mezclar el plastico en la subsuperficie del mar? Estara el mar sumergiendo la basura plastica?.

Student Questions:
Hi! My name is Leana and I am from George Washington high school on Guam. I am taking a marine biology class and we are currently learning about the effects of plastic in the ocean. The results of your manta trawl is scary. I just wanted to ask a quick question. What do you think our chances are of getting the plastic out of the ocean?

Leana, this is a very good question and I believe if we all do our part, we can eventually arrive at a solution. The most important thing now is to learn about what damage plastic waste is doing to our ocean and to our world in general. Information is a decisive factor in solving these types of problems, and students like you can contribute to their eventual solution. We need to put pressure on governments, so that they, along with industry, centers of higher education, like the current hub of marine debris research, the University of Hawaii, Hilo, and non-profit organizations like Algalita Marine Research Foundation can unite to keep our planet healthy. Unfortunately, we cannot remove the uncountable plastic fragments mixed up in the ocean, and only if we stop putting plastic in, will the ocean spit them all out.
Que posibilidades hay de que podamos sacar el plastico del mar?
Leana esta es una muy Buena pregunta y personalmente creo que si, si todos ponemos un granite de arena este problema puede llegar a tener solucion. Lo mas importante por ahora es saber cual es el dano que esta produciendo la basura plastica en los oceanos y en el planeta entero. La informacion es un factor decisivo en la solucion a este tipo de problemas y estudiantes como tu pueden aportar mucho a que esto se haga realida. Tenemos que poner presion en nuestros gobernantes para que junto con las industrias apoyados por universidades, y organizaciones no gubernamentales como AMRF unamos esfuerzos en mantener sano nuestro planeta. Desgraciadamente, no podemos sacar los innumerables pedazos de plastico que estan intermezcladas en todo el oceano. Y solo si paramos de ponerle plastico, puede el oceano escupirlos todos.

Kriszel from George.Washington high school, Guam asked "What do you expect to accomplish through your efforts in studying plastic in the ocean?How would the information you discover help contribute to future studies?"
The results that we obtain will serve as a guide for governments to study the plastic debris problem and develop legislation to limit the use of products that harm us and Mother Nature.
Que pretenden lograr con sus estudios de plastico en el oceano? Como pueden sus estudios contriuir a estudios en el futuro?
Primeramente mantener la informacion a todos niveles de la poblacion, para que juntos hagamos un cambio en nuestros habitos de mal uso del plastico. Despues empezar a encontrar alternatives que nos ayuden a todos y buscar formas mas amigables con nuestra naturaleza.
Firstly, we hope to inform all levels of our population so that we can all work together to change our bad habits and poor use of plastics. Secondly, we will begin looking for alternatives that will allow all of us to develop products and ways of life that are more nature friendly.
Los resultados que obtengamos sirven de guia a los gobiernos para poner restricciones a las industrias y a la poblacion en general de no hacer uso de productos que causan dana a los humanos y a la Madre Naturaleza.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Three Firsts!


September 21, 2007
The day before yesterday we talked about how the Gyre is an oceanic desert. Well today, the desert was visited by three large animal species, and we got a good look at all of them. In the morning, a mola mola began swimming around the dingy while we were still sea anchored for our dawn dive. We tried diving just before dawn to see the zooplankton before it began its daily migration back to the depths. We set the sea anchor and after diving in to inspect it, the first thing we saw was a plastic shopping bag floating by about 3 meters below the surface. It's mass, though small, was greater than all the zooplankton we saw on the dive. After the dive we began doing repairs taking advantage of the stability of the vessel at sea anchor, and we thought we saw a large plastic sheet floating by the dingy, but on closer inspection, it turned out to be a sunfish, or mola mola. Two of the crew were able to swim with the large fish as it lazily circled around curiously inspecting the strange contraption it had encountered in the middle of the ocean.
After we hauled in the sea anchor, we changed course for our destination, Hilo, Hawaii on a course of 195 degrees magnetic. Not long after, we spotted a humpback whale on its annual migration from Alaska to Hawaii. It came close enough to us for us to be able to see its shape underwater. We followed it for a while and then began seeing lots of trash, which we stopped to pick up. It's amazing how much life is carried by a 13 cm float. We are sending a foto of just the crabs that we took ofgf the small float.
We began seeing black footed albatross in an area, and when we approached, we found five adults and juveniles sitting together on the surface. This is the first time we have observed a group of albatross sitting together at sea. Two divers were able to swim up to the group, which immediately approached them with great curiousity. When one of the divers went below the surface, the birds flew. Evidently they are sensitive to being preyed on from below. Notice how small the diver's head is compared to the large albatross. Three firsts for the Gyre in one day, a mola mola, a humpback whale and a group of sitting black footed albatross. The desert has its visitors.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

Que dia mas raro! Anteayer hablamos sobre el hecho de que el giro es como un desierto. Pues hoy, el desierto tuvo visitas de tres especies de animales bien grandes. Por la manana, una mola mola gasto bastante tiempo con nosotros, y dos tripulantes nadaron con ella. Por la tarde, una ballena jorobada,en su viaje de Alaska a Hawaii, nos acerco, y la seguimos un buen rato. Tambien por la tarde vimos un grupo de cinco albatros, pata negra, juntos en la superficie. Nunca habiamos visto un grupo aqui de ese especie que nomalmente vuela solo. Hoy tambien empezamos a ver mas y mas basura, y nuestros redes trajeron abordo muchas cosas hechas de plastico. Es impresionante cuantos animales una pequena flotadora de 13 centimetros puede guardar. Estamos mandando un foto de solo los cangrejos que sacamos de ella. Hoy tambien cambiamos rumbo para el sur y estamos marcando un curso de 195 grados magnetico para Hilo, Hawaii.
Saludos desde ORV Alguita


Friday, September 21, 2007

Deepest Plastic Trawl Ever


September 20, 2007
Today we conducted the deepest trawl ever looking for plastic debris. We used paired bongo nets, and let out enough cable for them to reach a depth of 100 meters. The bongo net looks like a pair of bongo drums, one meter in diameter each, but instead of a skin stretched over the mouth, a net extends behind each drum.
In order to close the choke collar on the bongo nets at that depth, we used our heaviest fishing poles and attached the end of the line to the closure. The monofilament fishing line exerted less drag on the closure, so that it would not close before the end of the trawl. After one-half hour, the fisherman pulled in like they had a marlin and closed the choke collar on the bongo nets and we pulled in the cable with the winch. There appeared to be a couple of small plastic pieces in the collection bag, along with the zooplankton. Because the bongo collects down deep, we are able to run the Manta Trawl at the same time. While we were trawling, a black footed albatross flew over the Manta, a beautiful soaring scavenger of the deep ocean.
Our noon position today was 38 41 N, 142 02 W. A question for you, how many meters of cable did we have to let out at an angle of 45 degrees with the surface to reach a depth of 100 meters?
Aloha from ORV Alguita
Hoy hicimos la draga mas profunda para plastico que aun se ha hecho. Usamos una draga que se llama bongo. Parece al instrumento, pero con un diametro de un metro cada lado y una red atras de cada cilindro. Usamos canas de pesca para cerar el collar, porque la linea delgada no jalo demaciado, y no cerro el collar antes de la media hora que la jalamos. Despues de una media hora, regresamos la red con la grua y las canas de pesca, y encontramos un pedacito chiquito de plastico intermezclado con el zooplankton que atrapamos. Al mismo tiempo estabamos dragando con la manta, porque esa red trabaja la superficie, y volo encima un albatros negro. Nuestro posicion medio dia, 38 41 N, 142 02 W. Estamos en el centro del giro, con una prescion atmosferica de 1030 milibars. Una pregunta, cuanto cabo tuvimos que soltar a un angulo de la superficie de 45 grados para llegar a una profundidad de cien metros?
Saludos desde ORV Alguita

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sample Analysis back at the Lab

Algalita Marine Research Foundation Biologist Gwen Lattin explains some of the equipment that will be used to analyze samples gathered by the research crew aboard ORV Alguita. This shows the equipment used in the lab to measure the ratio of plastic to zooplankton in a known volume of water and then sort the different types of plastic by size and color.

video

A message from Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Director of Research and Education at Algalita Marine Research Foundation.
video

Septermber 19, 2007


September 19, 2007
Last night's dive was begun in calm conditions, but before it was over the wind was blowing 15-20 knots. The sea anchor held us on position very well and it was no problem to dive with the boat nearby. We saw lantern fish, miniature squid, ctenophores, and colonial creatures that looked like transparent worms. In general though, there was very little visible life in the water. The creatures were few and far between, reminding us that the Gyre is the oceanic equivalent of a terrrestrial desert. After we finished our dive around 2300, we had bright lights on deck to organize our dive gear and we were visited by a storm petrel attracted by the lights. It landed on deck and even came inside the cabin before we picked it up and released it. We believe it was a Madeiran Storm Petrel, Oceanodroma castro, but we are
sending along two photos for the experts to make a positive identification. We then set sail with main and genoa jib and have been making an average of 6 knots for the last 24 hours. Our noon position on 9-18 was 38 12 N, 137 22 W. Our noon position on 9-19 was 38 13 N, 139 15 W.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

Los cuatro busos anoche empezaron en calma, pero cuando terminaron con el buceo, el viento venia del noreste a 15-20 knots. Tenemos una paracaida para ancla de 6 metros diam. que sirvio muy bien para mantener nuestro posicion con relacion a los busos. Durante el buceo, vimos calamar chico, peces con lanternas y ctenophora, pero en realidad hubo poco que ver,
recordandonos que esta zona corresponde a los desiertos terrestres. Las luces del barco trajeron un ave y mandamos dos fotos para ver si ustedes pueden identificarlo. Saludos de Alguita, y gracias por sus preguntas.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1)Hola, soy Javiera de 6º basico de la Escuela Villa Centinela Sur que trabaja con el profesor Luis Pinto. Mi pregunta es para que necesita filtrar agua la profesora Lorena Rios? y si es agua solo de la superficie del mar. Gracias. Centro AquaSendas, CHILE

Hola Javiera, Necesito filtrar el agua de mar para retener en un filtro especial llamado GF/F, los solidos total suspedidos en el agua de mar y de esa manera analizarlos y ver si en estos solidos tenemos retencion de contaminantes organicos. A su vez, analizare el agua de mar para ver si es
posible la deteccion de estos mismos contaminantes organicos en el agua de mar o en las particulas que se hayan pasado del filtro. El agua que estamos muestreando es superficial. Tambien estamos atrapando microplastico con una red a la vez que tomamos muestra de agua y poder correlacionar la contaminacion si la encontramos en alguna de las fases, solidos, agua o
microplastico.

2)Hola, soy Escarlet, estoy en 4º basico de la Escuela Caleta Lenga. El profesor Luis me conto que un grupo de cientificos estan en un pequeño barco en el mar. Mi pregunta es donde duermen? y que comen? De donde sacan agua para beber?. Gracias AquaSendas, CHILE

Hola Escarlet, el Alguita es un catamaran que tiene un tamano de 25 toneladas, 16 m de largo con un mastil de 21 m. Podemos acomodarnos comodamente 6 personas en total, incluyendo al Capitan Moore. Cada uno tenemos una cama, el espacio es reducido pero aceptable, contamos con dos banos y dos regaderas, una cocineta y un pequeno comedor. En la popa, se
pueden tomar las muestras. el espacio es de unos 7 m de ancho y 4 m de largo. Se pueden tomar a la vez muestras con una manta y una red mediana de 28 cm por 45 cm. y el sistema de filtracion de agua de mar. La comida es deliciosa, ya que nuestro Capitan es totalmente internacional y con muy buen gusto para la cocina. El conoce mucho de la cocina mexicana, asi que por mi parte estoy encantada. Se que los demas participantes tambien estan
contentos con la comida. El Alguita tiene su propio sistema de filtracion osmotica y produce agua dulce con el agua de mar, dado que este sistema permite el paso del agua pero retiene las sales.

Steve Vogel at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium wants to know the approximate size of the squid so he can help us identify it.
The squid was about 16cm in length.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Second Day in the Eastern Garbage Patch

September 18, 2007

It is after nightfall and we are preparing for a night dive in misty rain and 1026 millibars of atmospheric pressure. During the day we collected debris, like a hard hat and a jar with food inside (very unappetizing). We also trawled for debris and along with disturbing amounts of plastic fragments and line, got an interesting squid, whose identity is a mystery. Maybe you know what species it is. We have successfully replaced the malfunctioning hydraulic pump on the auto- pilot, which is the cause for much rejoicing.

We took the dingy out and cruised around looking for things. We found jellyfish that looked like plastic and plastic that looked like jellyfish. It gets harder and harder to tell the difference between the two.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Garbage Patch

September 17, 2007
Today was our first day sampling inside the Eastern Garbage Patch. We sampled the area around 37 33N, 136 W. Our neuston (surface) trawls pulled up great quantities of plastic fragments, a small fishing float, a toy tire, and Japanese oyster farm spacers, along with several pre-production plastic pellets. The film crew took the dingy and filmed under water. They picked up a life jacket encrusted with barnacles. We have had an autopilot failure, so we are having to steer by hand until we get it fixed. That takes a crew member away from the research, but at least everyone will learn how to handle the ship.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

Monday, September 17, 2007

First Manta Trawl


September 16, 2007
Today we took our first water samples with the Manta Trawl, which is dragged along the surface behind the boat and feeds seawater through a mesh tube roughly the size of a can of tennis balls. The mesh filters out whatever is greater than a third of a millimeter in size. The results were shocking. Mixed in with lantern fish and small jellyfish were hundreds of pieces of plastic and various balls of fishing line and other debris. There
were even pre-production plastic pellets, sometimes called nurdles that are used to make all the plastic objects we are familiar with. The weight of the plastic pieces was far greater than the sea life itself. We have not gotten to the area of highest concentration of debris, the so called "Eastern Garbage Patch," but the quantities of plastic we are finding rivals what we found there in 1999. We believe the debris quantity is increasing rapidly. Tomorrow we will take more samples, as we will be in the general area of the EGB we sampled in 1999 and 2005. After dark, when we finished sampling a weather front with wind and rain blew down on us and we quickly set the genoa jib and turned off the motor, sailing to our destination at 8 knots, the fastest speed on the trip so far.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Day 6


September 15, 2007
Today we were able to sail without the engines for the first time. We used the genoa jib and the mainsail. The wind held steady at about 15 knots for four hours, and we were able to make about 6 knots over the ground. We are a day late, so we didn't stop to pick up any debris, but we saw a bottle and sev
eral pieces of broken plastic floating by. One of the questions that we have been discussing, is the significance of the habitat provided by plastic for sessile organisms and pelagic fish and crabs. You can see that there are lots of creatures, including fish in the attached photos of the derelict fishing buoy we pulled up. According to Dr David. Barnes, in his 2005 paper Remote Islands Reveal Rapid Rise of Southern Hemisphere, Sea Debris, "rubbish of human origin in the sea has roughly doubled the propagation of fauna in the subtropics and more than tripled it at high (>50o) latitudes." So what's wrong with the "propagation of fauna" on our trash in the ocean?
Aren't we just providing places for things to live? There are at least two problems with this. One is that plastic trash travels slowly on ocean currents, which allows
the organisms attached to adjust to changes in climate and water temperature. They may end up colonizing areas where they were never known before and out compete local species. This leads to a loss in what is called "biodiversity." The second problem we have been
discussing onboard Alguita, is the limit on the ocean's primary productivity far from shore. Primary productivity refers to the fact that food in the ocean, like on land, starts with photosynthesis, the process of plants turning solar energy into food for other creatures. There is a limit to the amount of solar energy impacting the ocean surface each day. Filter feeding organisms come up from the depths each night to feast on this plant
bounty -- the eat it practically all up. If we are making habitat for billions of creatures that wouldn't have survived in the open ocean otherwise, are they r
obbing the filter feeders of the food they have come to expect each night over millions of years? Will our trash mean less zooplankton in the ocean? Not to mention the fact that the plastic actually has chemicals that can kill zooplankton directly.
Tomorrow, we will do our first trawls and associated water sampling.
Aloha from ORV Alguita

El reporte para el dia de hoy es el siguiente:
Por fin hoy pudimos velear sin necesidad de motores! Usamos la vela principal y una vela secundaria, el viento se mantuvo a unos 15 nudos por cuatro horas, con eso fuimos capaces de navegar a 6 nudos sobre la tierra. Estamos atrazados un dia,
asi que no recogimos ninguna basura, pero vimos una botella y algunas piezas de plastico flotando. Una de las preguntas que estamos discutiendo es acerca del significado del tipo de habitat que el plastico provee a organismos sesiles, peces pelagicos y cangrejos. Como
ustedes pueden observar hay muchas creaturas, incluyendo peces en la boya que atrapamos, ustedes pueden ver la foto. De acuerdo con el Dr. David Barnes en su articulo del 2005 "Remote Islands Reveal Rapid Rise of Southern Hemisphere, Sea Debris". La basura de origen humano en los mares ha permitido al doble la propagacion de fauna en los subtropicos y mas de tres veces a altas latitudes (>50o)". Asi que la pregunta obvia es, ?cual es el error en la propagacion de la fauna en nuestra basura en el oceano?, ?Acaso
no les estamos provechendo de un lugar para vivir a los or
ganismos? Hay al menos dos problemas con esto, uno es que la basura plastica viaja lentamente en las corrientes oceanicas por lo cual permite a los organismos pegarsele y aclimatarse a los cambios de temperatura del agua. Al final terminan colonizando areas donde ellos nunca estuvieron y compite con las especies locales. Como consecuencia esto lleva a la perdida de lo que llamamos "biodiversidad". El segundo problema que hemos discutido abordo de la
Alguita, es el limite de la productividad primaria en los oceanos lejos de las costas. Productividad primaria se refiere al hecho de que la comida , al igual que en la tierra, empieza con la fotosintesis, el proceso por el cual las plantas convierten la luz solar en comida para otras creaturas. Existen limites para la cantidad solar que impacta la superficie del oceano cada dia. Los organismos filtroalimentadores vienen de grandes p
rofundidades cada noche para darse un festin de estas plantas y se comen practicamente todas. Si estamos haciendo habitats para billones de creaturas que no podrian
sobrevivir en el oceano abierto y si ellos toman la comida de los filtroalimentadores que ellos han venido consumiendo cada noche desde hace millones de anos? ?Estara nuestra basura creando menos zooplancton in nuestro oceano?. Sin mencionar el hecho de que los plasticos actualmente tienen quimicos que pueden matar al zooplancton directamente.
Bueno, manana sera nuestro primer dia que usaremos la malla llamada "trawls" y tomaremos al mismo tiempo una muestra de agua de mar para asociar ambos resultados.
Aloha desde el ORV Alguita.