September 26, 2007
Today, as we approached the phytoplankton bloom than may be associated with debris, that we were asked to sample by NOAA, two crew members independently reported the occasional odor of red tide, although there was nothing visible in the water from above to indicate an algal bloom. Upon hauling in a 1.5 hour manta trawl, we were shocked to see what appeared to be the highest ratio of plastic to zooplankton ever sampled. It would not suprise me if it was over 1000 to one, plastic to plankton (see photo). We did several other manta trawls, all with orders of magnitude more plastic than our 1999 study. We also stopped to pick up a tire with a heavily rusted metal rim, covered in algae and barnacles. The amouint of larger plastic pieces floating by continues to astound the ship's crew. We took one liter samples of sea water preserved in 1% formalin for later plankton ID, and in the evening, as we made sail during a squall, the crew was treated to a full arch "moonbow," a rainbow illuminated by the full moon, showing dim rainbow colors. Tomorrow we sample an arm of the phytoplankton bloom.