Sunday, January 27, 2008

High tailing the trade winds- Day 6.

Latitude: 2642.350 N, Longitude: 16502.179 W

Current Log: 939 Nautical Miles.

Were on the run today. Screaming along at up to 11 knots, heaving and rocking and bucking our way to the center of the Gyre – the Captain’s warning back in LA that we may be in for a wild bronco ride now makes more sense….

As today was another travel day, it’s a good time to discuss the weather systems a bit, as they are a key factor in debris accumulation in the Pacific, north of the Hawaiian Islands.

“Trade winds” is a term from the days of yore, when ships relied entirely on wind for commerce. These winds are created by temperature variations – hot air from the equator rises, moves away from the equator, cools as it moves north toward the poles, and descends. As it descends, and its pressure increases, it is warmed again by compression, and creates a clockwise circulation. (Learn more about the trade winds here.)

These high-pressure atmospheric systems, traveling in a clockwise direction, create surface ocean currents which are like a vortex, sucking materials in, such as debris, as the higher pressure pushes down. The more northerly lows, which travel counter clockwise, tend to “spit” debris out. Where these two zones meet is known as a transition zone – the sub-arctic lower pressure zone spits its debris into the high-pressure whirlpool. The result? Well that’s exactly what we’re headed to investigate.

The readings on our Barometer (Make your own barometer here, or here), which have been stable for the last week, now indicate a rise in pressure – which means were nearing the center of a high pressure vortex within the Gyre. A few scattered pieces of large debris here signaled our impending arrival - a plastic laundry basket, with a school of iridescent blue-green fish trapped underneath, and another fishing float. At 10 knots, both flew by before we had the chance to scoop them, but there will be no shortage of debris to collect, starting tomorrow.

The lack of activity today – no sampling, no sail hoisting, leak fixing or other boat repairs was more than made up for by the Captain’s famous sweet and sour Ono. Caught yesterday, prepared this afternoon – homemade sauce with fresh pineapple and red peppers, served over sticky rice, and devoured with much appreciation this evening.

Now for an evenings rest, as we hopefully gear up for some intense sampling.

Aloha from the ORV Alguita crew and Captain!

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