At 0700 hours, still pitch black outside, we had entered another time zone west of Hawaii but not changed the ship’s clocks, those of us on watch were treated to a rare sighting – Venus and Jupiter rising together. Two brilliant silver-gold orbs fading with the morning’s light.
We spent a restful morning after yesterday’s relatively rough travel – most of the crew slept in, nudged awake by the scent of banana pancakes, the promise of a perfect, sunny day…., and the Captain’s animated countdown to latitude 30 North: (Drum roll) We’ve entered the central high pressure cell of the gyre, and had our first very successful days work here!
We began sampling as soon as the last pancake disappeared, deploying four trawls simultaneously – the Manta, the Bongo, and two smaller surface trawls. Unlike the Manta, which skims the surface, the Bongo Trawl is lowered to 100 meters deep, to give a more accurate snapshot of plastic particles throughout the water column (we have done 10 meter and 30 meter bongo trawls on previous voyages). The Manta and Bongo trawls are being used for research purposes; the smaller trawls Marcus Eriksen is using to collect samples to distribute for educational purposes, to students, policymakers, and the media.
The image above shows what we found in our first sample. This truly illustrates the term Charles uses to describe the gyre, “plastic soup”. It really is difficult to comprehend the vastness of this phenomenon. There is still a common public misconception that the gyre is a “place”, a detectable spot, when rather it is an enormous, extremely diffuse region…..being out here, seeing nothing but blue horizons day after day certainly helps.
Our strategy from here on out will be to sample at each degree of latitude, (one degree of latitude equals sixty nautical miles) or roughly every eight hours. We just completed our second round of sampling, 1:30 am at 31 degrees north, and are now moving on to the next spot, 32 degrees north, about eight hours away under power with both engines.
Tomorrow, a bit about what Charles found while free diving with a hand held net, just below the Manta Trawls one meter limit……
Aloha from the crew and Captain of the ORV Alguita!