Noon coordinates (Day 11) 24°25'8.40"N 143° 0'7.20"W
Midday presented several of us with the opportunity sit up on the foredeck and catch some rays. In between flipping pages we’d take in the sights of the gyre, sometimes Albatross and flying fish, other times flotsam such as lotion bottles (see picture to left.)
Saturday afternoon brought an unexpected encounter with a Black-footed Albatross. We on the back deck watching the lovely bird catch puffs of air and soar around us. Billy, as we named her, landed in the water and as an afterthought Christiana mentioned how terrible it would be if the Billy were to get caught in one of the fishing lines dragging from the stern of the boat, and much to our dismay a split second later, she did. Here’s ScubaDrew’s account of the bizarre event:
“We did have a bit of craziness on deck today, when we accidentally snagged an Albatross with one of our trolling fishing lures. I was filming the graceful bird swooping over the waves when it landed right in the path of one of our fishing rigs. Well, before we knew it the poor bird was snagged and being dragged across the ocean, unable to regain control. With some quick thinking, we reeled the bird up to the boat where Joel took control of this very awkward animal. He has spent time in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands so he has had experience in handling Albatross. The good news is the line was the only thing snagging the wing--not the hook. So with a freed wing and some feathers in need of a little primping, we let her go back onto the big blue and watched as she stretched her wings out and prepared for flight a flight back home…only 1000 miles away. Amazing birds they are…fly thousands of miles to feed in the open ocean.”
Our encounter with Billy was a harsh reminder for us all; we leave our footprint where ever we go. It is important for us to be acutely aware of our actions to keep from inadvertently harming earth’s flora and fauna.
Today, with roughly 1900 miles under our belt, we reached the outskirts of the accumulation zone we’ve been aiming for. The early morning was spent fine tuning the Bongo nets and Manta trawl for 24 straight hours of sampling over a 80 nautical mile transect. Why the continuous sampling? Well Dr. Nikolai Maximenko, with the School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology (SOEST) in Hawai’i is interested in meso-scale variations across this predicted accumulation zone. Basically, he wants to see if a debris gradient can be established from the boundary to the actual accumulation zone. So, as I mentioned before we are sampling, within, and outside the boundaries. We are running trawls for 2 hours, collecting the samples, and then redeploying them.
By 10am all hands were on deck and the sampling marathon began. It’s going to be a long, yet fruitfull night. With a sea state ranging from 5-6 on the Beaufort scale, conditions have not been ideal for sampling, but we are working through it. The swells are the largest we’ve seen all trip. They are awe inducing, especially when they are positioned to crash right over the deck.
Coming from a first timer to the gyre, the samples we collect are truly astounding. In one regard it is amazing to have the opportunity to get up close and personal with planktonic organisms we catch while trawling. Today we caught several Portuguese Man-of -Wars, which are mesmerizing little critters. On the flip side, it is disturbing to watch chunks of debris spill out of the nets. It is bizarre and unsettling to find the detritus of our haphazard consumer lifestyle in one of the most remote parts of the world.
From the cutting edge of marine debris research,
ANSWERS TO STUDENT QUESTIONS
Dear State St. Elementary Students,
You guys had a lot of great questions!! Ana, Pancho, and Dariela wanted to know what exactly we are researching out here and what he can do to help. Well, we came out into the middle of the Pacific in search of marine debris. When a piece of trash is not correctly disposed of on land (like when someone litters) there is a significant chance it will make its way into the ocean. This is because trash that collects in street gutters will eventually connect to a river or a storm drain outlet that dumps into the ocean. Because of the surface current system in the Pacific Ocean trash gets stuck swirling around out here for many years. A surface current happens when the wind pushes the water in a certain direction. You can see how the wind affects water
And you want to know what you can do to save the environment? There’s a lot of stuff you can easily do! Pancho, I’m glad to hear that you recycle! That is one of the most important things you can do. When we recycle we prevent more natural resources from being used. A tree is a natural resource we use to make paper. Oil is a natural resource we use to make gasoline for our cars. However when you recycle something like paper, it can be processed and turned back into a paper product without having to cut down another tree. Most natural resources take a long time to replenish and we need to be careful how we use them.
You should also be aware of the products you and your family buy. Most of the trash we see out here is plastic, and plastic lasts a long, long time. You should avoid using one time use plastic products, like water bottles and plastic bag. It doesn’t make very much sense to use a material that lasts a long time and harms the environment for a product you are only going to use once.
Keep the questions coming!
From the Pacific,