Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Return to the Garbage Patch sampled in 1999

Today was a day of discovery. It is always interesting from a monitoring standpoint to go back to the same geographical area and re-sample it the same way to determine if a trend is developing. We are running in reverse the transects of the Eastern Garbage Patch that we did in 1999. In the summer of '99 we sampled from east to west and from north to south. Since we are coming from Hawaii and not California, we will sample from south to north and from west to east. We are trawling the same course and distance, even the time of day is the same to eliminate as many variables as possible. Our first of a dozen trawls was then #12, the last one done in 1999. I remember that sample well, it was the most contaminated by plastic bits of any sample we got that trip. Since it is wintertime, and the wind was blowing about 15 knots, which created a rougher ocean surface than in 1999 when we first came to the area, I thought that the plastic bits would be dispersed in the water column, and not show up in our surface manta trawl. Imagine my surprise when our net not only pulled up what appeared to be substantially more small plastic particles than 9 years ago, but also part of a blue crate that was so big it had to be removed back through the mouth of the net. The exponential increase in debris seen off the coast of Japan, appears to be happening here as well. After two trawls, we sea anchored for a night tank dive. The beautiful invertebrates and filter feeders of the gyre were on stunning display. We'll see what Joel captured on the video tape tomorrow.

Aloha and buenas noches from ORV Alguita.

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