Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 30

Noon position: 35° 3'54.00"N 171°37'40.80"W
It’s been super calm, and we’ve been taking advantage of these conditions to do continuous trawling. We are bringing in our third trawl of the day-they have all been thick with plastic. Among some of today’s debris finds: a black plastic bag fragment, bottle caps, and an oil bottle which weaseled its way into the Manta trawl. Notable wildlife find of the day: a Hatchetfish (Captain found this little deep water fish while putting around in the dingy, at the surface-quite a ways from home). I did another fragment count today off the bow: 48 pieces of plastic floated past in 10 minutes. About half the frequency I recorded on July 4th, but still pretty astounding.

Here is what the resident fish nerd (Christiana) had to say about the findings from her dissection of the Mahi Mahi caught today:

“I did not find any plastic in the Mahi’s stomach, but I did find some really interesting creatures. There was a cornucopia of parts that I was able to put together--like a forensic puzzle. I felt like a scientist on CSI: Pacific Gyre. There were parasites, squid beaks and mantles, fish jaw bones and skulls, a crab carapace and claw remnants, and a completely intact lanternfish (Family: Myctophidae). This was an amazing discovery for me because it shows that Mahi feed directly on laternfish. From my research on the laternfish collected from the 2007-2008 gyre voyage, I found that these particular fish had ingested a ridiculous amount of plastic. What we found today is a full circle; humans have created this mess in the ocean and we are now stuck consuming it. I really hope that our efforts out here get people more motivated to prevent this problem from getting worse.”

After we processed the fish, Captain, Christiana and I went on an expedition this afternoon. Since conditions were so calm, we decided it was high time to take the dingy out. It was bizarre to watch our home for the past several weeks disappear behind us, but at the same time it was nice to escape from the boat for a bit. We cruised along looking for debris, which is a little harder to spot from the low vantage point of the dingy. After a few minutes we ran into a float-which from a distance looked like a large Japanese glass float. It turned out to be a standard buoy. It was a 300mm float made by Yung Plastic Industries Co. in Taiwan. There was a huge population of barnacles layering the lines attached to the buoy and a decent sized community of juvenile Rainbow Runners taking refuge under the debris. We had some time to jump in the water and film the synthetic habitat while we were waiting for the Alguita to catch up with us. Getting the buoy back onto the vessel required a bit of muscle-there were about 100 pounds or so of barnacles attached.

We are 399 miles out from our desired sampling location and near the 4000 logged mile mark for the trip!

No comments: