Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 35- We’ve reached the International Dateline!!

Noon Position: 34° 0'36.00"N 179°53'34.80"W
We’ve reached the Dateline!! Finally, 35 days out of Long Beach and 4,441 nautical miles into this mission and we’ve reached our goal, the International Dateline. This latitude line is both 180˚ E and 180˚ W and is a brand new line of sampling to add to the databank! Our transition into the eastern hemisphere (and into tomorrow) was quite picturesque. The sun was shining and the ocean was glassy, a pod of Striped Dolphins was performing starboard of the vessel and an albatross or two was flying about. The crew was gathered on deck as Captain watched our position from the helm, counting down our approach to the Dateline. We crossed, and the dolphins decided to up their performance to some aerial moves. Captain joined us on deck and we relished in the moment of achieving our goal for a bit-the conversion tending towards the usual, marine debris.

Before we reached the Dateline, we had a strange run in. Around 9am, I was directed from the debris spotters on deck (Captain and Drew) to turn hard starboard so we could fetch an obscure piece of debris in the distance. As Captain was dipping down the net to retrieve it he realized that it was far from marine debris-it was a sea turtle. The presence of this guy highlighted the reason marine debris is such a tremendous issue; the juvenile turtle was feeding in an area where we had been fishing out debris all morning, introducing the possibility of plastic ingestion. We have documented the tangle of debris and zooplankton that surrounds us (see photo below). It is easy to imagine how the plastic fragments could be inadvertently scooped up-and marine debris ingestion in sea turtles has been recorded.

So now that we are at the Dateline we are doing what we came here to do-sample, sample, sample. Refreshingly, we pulled up only 3 plastic fragments in the first trawl #29 (at least from what we could see with the naked eye). Manta sample #30, deployed a ½ hour later, produced a ridiculous amount of plankton. Manta sample #33, the last of the day, ran for a half hour and produced an astounding amount of plastic. A stark contrast to Manta #29 deployed 3 hours (roughly 9 nautical miles) prior. As I stated yesterday, the trash accumulation zone is patchy and tremendously dynamic.

We are chugging along at 3 knots with the main and Genoa up, banking on some more wind to come our way as we head north. We will continue sampling along the Dateline for the next 300 miles, up to 40N and then head east after we pick up the westerlies to start our return to Hawai’i.

From the International Dateline,

Thank you to ScubaDrew Videoworks and AMRF for the pictures!!!!


Sam and Zack from Miraleste Intermediate,
Great idea on the TV Show front. Popular networks are a great vehicle to get people informed about the issue. We’ve already been on several shows/networks including Discovery Channel, the History Channel, Animal Planet, the Sundance Channel, REaltime with Bill Maher, the Martha Stewart show, Datleine, CNN…and thankfully the list goes on. One thing that makes Algalita such a unique scientific organization is that we push to expose our research finding through all forms of media (print, radio, TV etc.) to ensure that more than just the scientific community is buzzing about the issue of plastic marine debris.

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