Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 7

Noon position: 23°36'14.40"N 130°19'48.00"W
Hello from the Capt. and crew!

We are still headed for Hawai’I, but have added a slight detour to the northwest of our route. Dave Foley, an oceanographer with NOAA, has predicted an accumulation zone not too far out of our way and we are headed there to investigate. You may be wondering, “where is he getting the idea that marine debris might be accumulating in this area?” Well, Dave has put together the Debris Estimation Likelihood Index (DELI) based off of chlorophyll levels. Essentially high levels of chlorophyll correlate to high levels of plankton. Plankton rides the ocean currents, as does marine debris. So it is hypothesized that where the currents have caused an accumulation of plankton, there might also be an accumulation of debris.

We deployed the third Manta trawl of the trip this afternoon. The trawl produced lots of juvenile sawrys, some more of the purple gastropods which Capt. Moore has identified as Janthina janthina, and to our disgust, but not to our surprise, several plastic fragments and some plastic line.

After trawling we practiced how to heave-to, which is a way to set the sails that effectively stops the boat from moving forward. This is an important tool to have under our belt in the case of an emergency. Since we were already stopped from the heave-to drill, the Captain, Christiana, Drew and Jeff decided to take a dip in the ocean. Capt. Moore searched for trash while Drew captured underwater footage of the debris gathering. They pulled up a piece of a plastic shopping bag, a newspaper packing band, and some plastic fragments. This is what happens when throwaway consumerism meets the open ocean.

The winds are starting to pick up and the seas are beginning to get a little feistier. Some of us are reapplying our scopolamine patches, and others have sea legs (and stomachs) just as sturdy as ever. The day ended with a valuable lesson (at least for me): don’t leave the hatches open. As you can imagine, hatches and active seas don’t mix very well. I experienced this first hand today as a large wave swept over the deck and down the hatch located DIRECTLY above my head. Needless to say, I was jostled from my pre-watch nap with seawater to the face and left with a pile of wet sheets.

We are cruising along at a speed of 9.0knotts and climbing; the fastest we’ve seen yet…and we are achieving it without the help of our engines!


srchief said...

Isn't it amazing how respect is a "one way street" with the ocean. One moment of inattention and she reminds you who is boss with a face full of salt water and work to do to undo the mess made by giving her the opportunity to teach you a lesson. Life is grand underway.

Anonymous said...

East Hills 4-H
San Leandro CA

Thank you for your in depth answer to my question. I know their website is biased (they want to save the plastic bag afterall) and I plan to write to them with the FACTS.

I am having a hard time visualizing what 334,271 pieces of plastic/km2 and roughly 5,114 g/km2 of plastic would look like when you bring it up after trawling? Would this fill a 500 ml bottle for instance? Is it all small stuff? Why are your measurements in area (km2) and not volume? Is that because you trawl on the surface because most of the plastic is lightweight and floating?

Anonymous said...

Miraleste Int. School Palos Verdes, CA Kendall, Gabby, Christopher.
Thanks for all you have done to help our nation. How many animals have you found trapped?
Do a lot of animals eat litter? Thank you for being so helpful!!!!!!!!!!!