Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 23, and lots of answers to student questions!!!!

Noon Coordinates 35°12'19.92"N, 138°24'39.84"W
Day 23 Tuesday 9/29/09
I’ve had a lot of students asking what kind of fish or sea animals do we see - Turtles? Sharks? Dolphins? Manatees? I did get to see some dolphins while scuba diving in Hawaii and saw several sea turtles while exploring Kamilo Bay with Noni and Ron Sanford, but not since then. We swam while dolphin fish, otherwise known as Mahi Mahi, circled below down too deep to photograph. One night, we decided to flash lights over the ocean looking for Myctophids. When light hits them just right, their oversized eyes reflect a florescent red and they’re glowing photophor studded bodies make them look like fireflies of the sea. What we didn’t realize is our lights gave a school of Mahi Mahi the home court advantage and we found ourselves witnessing a feeding frenzy. The little five inch or so long Myctophids, twisted and contorted, zoomed and darted like kids playing dodge ball. I saw one jump over the head of a three foot Mahi Mahi. There were flashing fish and flashing flashlights going in all directions. Next thing we saw were squid getting into or getting out of the way of this dog eat dog world. Blotches of ink plumed the blue lit water.

Since we are on our way back to California with seas ranging from 5 to 7, cruising at 10 plus knots, weaving in and out of squalls, we haven’t had a chance to see much of anything. But today the sky turned blue, the captain put a line out, Bill threw the compost out and Jeff reeled in a Mahi Mahi (see picture above.) It was close to 30 inches long! Gwen examines the digestive tract for plastics and then Jeff took over. We’ll have it for lunch tomorrow. Good stuff!

To keep myself busy I decided to finish a project I started involving a poster using the inside of a shopping bag. We have a group of students from River Ridge High School, Florida who take part in AMRF’s Ship-to-Shore Educational Program that Holly Gray facilitates. Thanks Holly, you’ve recruited a great group of kids from all over the country and Canada!!! Well River Ridge High has a group of students known as the Reef Rascals soon to change there name to SPLASH (Students Protecting Land and Sea Habitats) who are getting some press and they asked for a photo from the gang out here. This was a little dicey since we all needed to be in it and with the boat bounces around so much self portraits are tough. We decided to use my video camera. So we all got in position in front of the camera and then just stared at it like “now what.” Without a “cheese” or “smile” or someone to say “Ready?” it left us all hanging until the captain, being the director of operations, began to sing M.I.C. K.E.Y. M.O.U.S.E. This was the most coherent picture I could extract from the footage. Great footage though.
Q: Hay I am from river rige high school. I was just trying 2 figer out how the plastic has changed its figer from the last time you went out.Were do you do all of your testing is it on the boat our do u wait till u get 2 shower 2 do the testing. i am so happy that some one is trying 2 do some thing about it because if u did not do it how would. you guys put a smile one my face every time you all figer some thing new about the plastic.

A: Hay, hey! Good question! Gwen and the Captain were the only two who saw the results from the 1999 voyage that could comment on the comparison. They both agree that all the survey results they’ve done in the past including the 1999 voyage have been surpassed by this years trawling. We will have to take the samples back to the lab to accurately depict just how much more. You put a smile on our faces knowing that you are as much a part of solution as we are. Best,

Q: Hey! I'm Hannah from River Ridge High School and i'm a junior. I wanted to know, from all of you, what the mot memorable discovery was, and the most memorable part of your expedition. anything you didn't know going in that you know now? thanks!

A: Our most memorable discovery was how many big things there have been out in the ocean. Not only were the pieces that we found in our trawl much bigger this time around in the Garbage Patch, but also, the really big stuff that if our boat ran into them it could have potentially sunk our ship. For example, the big item on the pallet, a log 2’ by 10’, and a 6’ basin. Another huge problem we have had is with ropes, fishing line and ghost nets that have fowled up in our propeller and could have ruined damaged our engines. So plastic pollution can cause serious problems for marine vessels and proven to do so to the ORV Alguita.

Q:have you seen any sharks yet? A: No sharks, but if we do, we’ll be sure to get pictures!

Q: Hola, this is Dan, Garrett, Matt, Tyler, and Landan, better known as the SHARKS. We're from River Ridge High School. We were wondering what was your motive behind embarking on this journey to learn about the pollution in the oceans? When did you guys realize your love for marine life?

A:Sharks!!! I had some elementary students ask me if we’ve seen any sharks, I can at least tell them that I heard from a few! I think I can best answer this by answering the second part first. I never knew I cared so much for marine life until I read the magazine article in “Plastic Ocean” by Susan Casey in Best Life magazine. In it she describes interviewed Captain Moore and explained how sea mammals, birds, and turtles were getting entangled and ingesting our trash. She described “May West” the snapping turtle that is deformed by a plastic band (you can search for more info on the internet.) I was so saddened by the fact that our trash was maiming and killing the smallest birds to the largest mammals that I felt I had to do something. It inspired me to contact Algalita and for a year I hoped I would get to go to sea on the ORV Alguita. Just goes to show you if you put your passion first, anything can happen. Swim on Sharks! Bonnie

Q: Hi i am Claudia from River Ridge High School. My question to you guys
is, can you guys tell where the plastic comes from? is it only from
local waters or do you find plastic from across the globe?

A: Claudia, Now there is a question I can say I answer with certainty. Once plastic get in the water they are free to roam anywhere. (unlike cell phones minutes) Not often (because labels wash off) there would be something on them that we could tell where it was from. And even though we found labels written in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean it doesn’t mean it wasn’t from the US. Overall, most of the plastics are broken down into small fragments and are unidentifiable. Best, Bonnie

Q: Hey guys, its corinne and casie from river ridge high school and we just wanted to know if you guys had an thoughts on why there are less barnicles on large trash items now then there was ten years ago? also why it seems algae is replacing the barnicles in number?

A: Hi Corinne and Casie, We still don’t have a definitive answer to this question. We are hoping a marine biologist would email us the answer. I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Best, Bonnie

Q: Hi, I'm Christina from River Ridge High School in Florida. I was wondering why you think the barnacles attach themselves to the buoys. I also was wondering why you think there is such a difference from the trip in 1999 and the trip you are on now. :)

A: Hey there Christina, Barnacles attach to any solid surface that they come in contact with. For example, in marinas it is the bottom of boats and that is why we have special paint to try to minimize them attaching and slowing down the boat. As for buoys, it is just another surface. In this case they also are floating through new water all the time and thus the barnacles can get the nutrients they need to grow. We are still waiting on an answer as to why there seems to be less barnacles this time through the Garbage Patch. We’ll blog once we get an answer. Stay tuned. Bill

Q:This is Meghan a senior from River Ridge High School. I was wondering what fish you mostly encounter and what kind is your favorite to eat? Also what are you guys looking forward to most after you finish the voyage? September 29,2009.

A: Meghan, We put our fishing lines out almost everyday, but the only kind of fish we catch is Mahi Mahi. They taste good, but are so pretty . . .
I’m looking forward to wearing clean clothes. We washed our clothes once on the boat and it doesn’t seem as clean washing clothes by hand. On a more serious note, I look forward to presenting at workshops to share our findings to the general public. I will also be presenting my thesis for grad school on this topic in the spring. And last, but not least, seeing my grown children. Best, Bonnie

Q:hey guys, its corinne and casie from river ridge high school and we just wanted to know if you guys had an thoughts on why there are less barnicles on large trash items now then there was ten years ago? also why it seems algae is replacing the barnicles in number?

A:Hi Corine and Casie, We really do not know what the answer(s) are to your questions, but when we do, we’ll be sure to blog the answers! Best, Bonnie

Q: wow you guys are working hard, though you are encountering some troubles, you get done what is needed to get done. Im wondering how is it being away from home? And do you take any of the items to keep for yourself? ....Keep on keepin on. -Hannah H. RRHS-

A: Hi Hannah, Captain Moore is so kind, he let’s us take what we find. So I’ll be bringing home the toilet seat! (although he teases me that we have joint custody of it!)
We appreciate your asking about being away from home and I’d be glad to start. For me, having two children in their mid-twenties, it’s probably good for them that I’m away so I’m not coaching them all the time. All kidding aside, with only six crew members, we’re so busy there is little time to think about home. But this voyage has rekindled my sense of wonder and I’m trying to absorb the knowledge that Captain Moore, Dr. Cooper and Jeff Ernest so willingly share. I am a grad student in the Liberal Studies Program at UNC Wilmington and being a part of AMRF’s research is part of my final project. This has been a hands-on learning experience of a lifetime and one that I will never be able to recreate so I am enjoying every learning second of it.
Being away from home is different for each one of us. For myself, Bill Cooper, with a PhD in oceanography, I spent over the course of my studies 6 months at sea doing field work. The longest cruise I was on was 3 weeks and one gets use to extended periods of time away, particularly when you are conducting experiments around the clock like we are doing on this cruise. We are too busy to even think about home. Capt Moore says he feels the same way. He never tires of the sea, but when he gets close to home, he’s ready to return to his comforts and organic exotic garden. Lindsey Hoshaw misses her email, Twitter and corresponding with her bloggers. I also misses the smell of the desert, she is from Tucson AZ. Jeff misses his dog.

Q:I was wondering if your ship is almost full, and if so how are you going to store all these things when you just got to the Pacific Garbage Patch. Also, did you find anything that was from around the world? Zach and Richard New Port Richey, FL River Ridge High School 11th grade

A: Zach and Richard, You cannot believe the amount of trash we have on board. Hundreds of lbs of trash!!! But we have compartments as well as places on the deck to tie it all down. Some of it will go toward education, some will go to recycling.

Q: I was also wondering if you are going to test these materials/items you found when you get back or are you already experimenting on them? Zach River Ridge High School New Port Richey, FL

A: Hi, I’m Gwen Lattin a marine biologist on board the vessel. The debris we have collected will be mostly for outreach and education so people can see the material for themselves. We have also collected manta samples and samples of fish that have been associated with the debris. They will be analyzed once we return to the mainland. We will count and weigh the plastic particulates, then quantify it by calculating the number of pieces and weight of the plastic per square meter in the surface water and the number of pieces and weight of plastic per cubic meter for estimating the amount in the near surface water column. The fish will be analyzed for contaminants, mainly persistent organic pollutants (POPs). All analysis will take several months.

Ms. Rivenbark (in North Carolina),
I’m so happy to here from you. Hi students, thanks for your awesome questions. I’m having fun answering them. I will have a picture in the blog just for your class. It’s called a dolphin fish and it is the biggest sea animal we’ve seen out here.

Have you seen any sharks? We have not seen any sharks, but I would like to see one. In the Garbage Patch, there are not a lot of fish because it is not a good environment for them to feed on. But if I do, I’ll let the class know!
Have you seen any seals? We have not seen any seals. They are found on island areas and do not go far from land. I will be going to port in California and I might see one there. I’ll let the class know if I see one (and get a picture!)
How are you doing on the ship? We are doing great on the ship. We have a lot of food and the captain likes to cook so tonight we are having enchiladas! The boat bumps around a lot so we look funny when we walk. And at night, we can hear the water swishing around under our beds. It’s a lot of fun.
How do manatees live? Good question, but no manatees in this part of the world. They like to live where there is a lot of marsh and there isn’t any in the open ocean. I sure do like them, they look really nice.
How much trash have you seen? We have seen a lot of trash. We have seen more trash than we could pull out of the ocean. We have tried taking as much as we can and right now have close to 400 pounds worth.
Have you seen any turtles? I did see a lot of sea turtles when I was in Hawaii. Here is a picture of a baby one swimming in broken pieces of plastic. We took it out and put it in a cleaner part of the ocean so it wouldn’t try to eat it. Isn’t it cutes?
Have you seen any dolphins jump out of the water? Yes, we’ve seen dolphins jump out of the water when I was scuba diving they were only a few feet away. They were too fast to get there picture. If we see them again, we’ll send you a picture!!
How cold is the water there? The ocean water is in the low 70s. It is so much fun getting to the water that we don’t even think about being cold. When I get in, the water is so clear, I can look down and see my feet dangling in the pretty blue water below. This ocean never gets as warm as the Atlantic Ocean. (We want to compare the temp to our ocean water.)

Keep the questions rolling.
Bonnie, Lindsey, Bill, Jeff, Gwen and the captain


Anonymous said...

iv always ben very curious if this has ever happened to anyone.
has a squid ever got you with its ink before?

Ariel Lopez

Anonymous said...

how is the weather on the boat?
is it as nice as it seems?
have you guys ever come across a bad storm?

Ariel Lopez

Anonymous said...

do you guys always have toe at fish?
if not, what do you guys usually have?
have you ever ran out of liquids to drink?

Ariel lopez
River Ridge

Anonymous said...

I want you to know that the kids in my 4H club have been reading with interest about your recent trawls. Expect some insightful questions soon. In the mean time I have two questions:
1) I have read that a group from Scripps Institution of Oceanography has also gone out to the Pacific Plastic Gyre to take samples and study it. Are you collaborating with them or if not, what are they doing differently from you?
2) You mentioned that there is little ocean life in the gyre itself. Yet your previous statistics say the ratio of plastic to plankton in the gyre is 6:1. But if fish are not in the gyre then where are they ingesting plastic and what do you estimate is the ratio of plastic to plankton is in those areas?
Amy C- Project Leader, Plastic Eliminators.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have a question about the plastic ratio to plankton.Has it changed at all?If so, what was the change.Oh and be careful because of the storm.
George Washington High School
12th grade

Thank you for your time.

Marquisha said...

My name is Marquisha. i am from George Washington High School, Guam. I am a junior and i am currently taking Marine Bio. I have recently watched your video, synthetic sea. It brought a concern. I was wondering what is the economy doing to prevent plastics or debris that gets into the ocean. Plastic is a major thing nowadays because its cheaper. But have your statistics brought up a concern in the world.... And how is the weather. Storms are coming from left to right in the pacific ocean. Hope you guys are managing okay.

Anonymous said...

My name is Marquisha. i am from George Washington High School, Guam. I am a junior and i am currently taking Marine Bio. I have recently watched your video, synthetic sea. It brought a concern. I was wondering what is the economy doing to prevent plastics or debris that gets into the ocean. Plastic is a major thing nowadays because its cheaper. But have your statistics brought up a concern in the world.... And how is the weather. Storms are coming from left to right in the pacific ocean. Hope you guys are managing okay.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Cassandra and I'm a senior at George Washington High School on Guam. I would like to know what are your predictions for the future due to plastic? How long until, do you think, that bioaccumulation will be at its most high?