Monday, February 11, 2008

Meet the crew: Joel Paschal

Our noon position: Latitude 35 32.555 North, Longitude 145 10.846 West

Hello ship to shore students!

First we want to introduce our next crewmember, our underwater photographer/videographer, Joel Paschal. You’ve seen some of his awesome underwater shots, and he’s taken some amazing video footage both underwater and on board. He keeps us all entertained with his stunts and jokes, is super knowledgeable about everything from politics to mullets, and a fine chef to boot.

Here’s Joel to tell you a bit about what drew him to this voyage, and the image here is Joel after hooking a plastic sheet with a sort of boat lasso device called a grappling hook - yet another of his hidden talents!

“Having worked in marine debris removal for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, I was already attuned to this issue, and had read about Captain Moore’s research with plastic debris. Also wanting to sail my own boat from Hawaii to the mainland, this seemed a perfect fit, to both learn from an expert, and have the opportunity to do some research diving as well. I hope to take away from this experience a greater firsthand understanding of just how much plastic is out there, and how vast this area really is.

Right now, we are in the most remote place on earth – this is now our playground. We’re finding some fascinating fish communities surrounding this marine debris. Were still on the lookout of some dynamic, captivating footage of filter feeders feeding on this marine debris. As the trip videographer and underwater filmmaker, this is one of my ultimate goals on this trip."

If you have any questions for Joel about what its like to dive on ghost nets, take pictures underwater, or live on a sail boat, fire away! He’ll be happy to get back to you.

And now, we wanted to respond to Jeff Manker and the students from Gilroy High School who asked why we can’t just remove all this plastic from the ocean. A great thought, we also really wish it were possible, and love that you all are thinking this way.

Your teacher Jeff is right – it’s just too big an area. It’s like suggesting we sweep the United States. Or sift the Sahara desert. And as you’ve probably seen from our sample images, much of this debris is made up of small pieces – fragments – that require a fine mesh to remove. Which means removing tons of plankton as well – the basis of the entire marine food chain. If only the debris were nicely contained in a big “trash island”, perhaps we could remove it. But it’s spread out over an incomprehensibly huge area. The terms “garbage patch” or “Texas-sized trash heap” make people think of a contained area, when in fact this “plastic soup” goes on for thousands of miles… So we really have to focus our efforts on making sure this plastic doesn’t end up here in the first place. Maybe your class can discuss some ways we might do this, and let us know what you come up with.

Meantime, aloha and gracias from the Captain and Crew of the ORV Alguita!

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