Monday, March 22, 2010

More Answers to Student Questions!

Ahoy land loving lads and lasses,
Anna here – reporting to you from the middle of the Indian Ocean.
As always, there were many wonderful questions – so I was able to answer about half of them today. We hope to answer more soon!

In answer to Hayley and Jaqueline (from Las Vegas , Nevada) we’re 50 on board, including 25 crewmates, mainly from Holland. These young men and women have all learned to be accomplished sailors, and are in charge of sailing the boat, a 250-foot long Clipper called the Stad Amsterdam. Most of the crew have been on the boat for 7 months or more, sailing around the world! This is a new experience for Marcus and me – usually on research trips, we are also part of the crew – waking up at strange hours to take turns doing watches, as well as cooking, cleaning, and helping with general boat duties.

We did ask the crew to wake us up ANY time the boat slows to 3-4 knots, no matter what time it is, so we can trawl. So we’re now up, and 5:00 am, answering questions and drinking coffee while waiting to pull the trawl up. Its still pitch black outside, a warm breeze blows, and the sky is full of stars. These are some of the best moments.

In answer to the question Felipe and Antonella (Escuela Nº41, Uruguay)asked about food and water: there is TONS of food on board – and a wonderful chef on board who makes great meals every day. Last night, we had a special Dutch treat, since it was Sunday: Dutch pancakes and ice cream for dinner! There were apple cinnamon, banana, blueberry, and.....bacon pancakes. (I didn’t eat this one, but Marcus tried it - strange.) Everyone on board was really excited by this very unusual meal, and on a sugar high for hours. Normally we eat more balanced meals – for breakfast, homemade bread with cheeses and meats, yogurt and cereal, and fresh fruit, and for dinner, rice and vegetables, salads, soups, and pasta. And we have a few water makers on board that pump salt out of seawater, so we always have a fresh supply of drinking water.

Many of you have asked what we do for fun. After dinner every night, we all gather in the main dining room for some entertainment. A big movie screen pops down, and Captain Andy begins his daily report about the coming weather, with a slideshow of pictures from the days events. Then one of the young film students on board shows a short film they put together that day, the Ships Journal, called “Scheepsjournaal“ in Dutch. And then, we either hear a presentation from one of the scientists on board, watch a film put together by the crew, or watch one of the documentaries made by the Dutch Television crew VPRO. These films follow Darwin’s studies as a young man around the world, and look at how things have changed since his voyage. In answer to Meagan and Tyler (Las Vegas, Nevada): On this leg of the journey, the two films are on plastic, and coral reefs.

These films are incredibly well done – you may be able to see some of them on line, on the Beagle Expedition Website. The site is in Dutch, so it may be hard to navigate, but I’m sure you’re up to the challenge! And even if you find a film mostly in Dutch, it will give you some idea of what the trip is like.

Many of you asked about our goals on this voyage. Our main goal on this trip is to gather information on possible plastic pollution in the Indian Ocean. We know its out here, based on other reports, including one paper we found on plastic washed up on Islands in the Indian Ocean. See if you can find that paper on our 5 Gyres website, under “research”. After studying plastic in the North Pacific Gyre with Algalita, we decided to look at the other oceanic gyres, to see if they are all full of plastic. We’ve been to the North Atlantic, just last month, and found lots of plastic there. And next fall and spring, we’ll go to the South Atlantic and South Pacific. By then, we’ll have gathered data from all 5 oceans, and will share this with an international audience.

Allegra (Las Vegas, Nevada) wanted to know if there was a defining moment for us that compelled us to work on this issue. For me, it was hearing Captain Charles Moore speak about plastic in the Pacific Gyre, back in 2002, and then joining him on an expedition to Guadalupe Island, where we found plastic inside the stomachs of birds. For Marcus, it was rafting down the Mississippi River in a raft he made from plastic bottles, and seeing plastic trash during the entire 5-month journey. Marcus also went to Midway Island with a group of students, and saw dozens of Albatross skeletons filled with trash – lighters, bottlecaps, toys, and more.

We’ve both had a chance to see first hand how our trash, from our own cultures, is damaging the environment. We want to bring this to peoples attention, so we can find solutions more quickly.

To the question Christian (from Las Vegas, Nevada) asked about getting sucked into the whirlpools of the gyres: fear not lads and lasses. The gyre is a massive, slow rotating system, made up of oceanic currents and winds. There is no danger of getting “sucked in”. The bigger danger for sailors is getting stuck in the “doldrums”, the high-pressure system in the center of a gyre where the winds die down. We’re not worried about this here, as we’ll be following good winds on this route. And should we get “becalmed”, we do have a motor as a back up. We prefer not to use it.

Coleen (from Guam) wanted to know about what research has already been done on the Indian Ocean. As far as we know, there haven’t been any studies looking at plastic floating on the surface waters. We did find one paper on plastic that washes up on Islands in the Indian Ocean. What else can YOU find out about the Indian Ocean?

Finally, Chris (from Las Vegas, Nevada) asked what our favorite sea creature is. We all have many, but for today, I’ll say the Dolphin Fish, or Mahi-Mahi – just yesterday, I learned that they mate for life. Which makes me feel differently about eating them. Marcus says his is the hatchet fish, they have big eyes and fierce looking teeth, but they are tiny! Yara, a young woman on board, loves the Commodore Dolphins they saw in Patagonia. They are small, with black and white coloring like a killer whale, and very playful, leaping and dancing around the boat, and swimming with their bellies facing up, like they wanted someone to tickle them.

1 comment:

Toan said...

Hey how did you guys know where the gyre is? Lawndale high school; California and lawndale; im in the 10th grade; Toan Le;