Tuesday, August 12, 2008

“Nautical Ladder”

The “Nautical Ladder” development at Santa Rosaliita, or
How to divide a town, step by step.

A study done by Algalita Marine Reseach Foundation, the Autonomous University of Baja California and CISESE, (a Mexican Gov’t. Research Institution) prior to the proposed development of a “Port of Refuge” on Baja California’s pacific coast which would also have the capacity to trailer boats from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez, showed the coastal environment of Santa Rosaliita to be in a pristine, unaltered condition. The small fishing village there was having no measurable effect on the local marine environment. The location chosen for the nautical ladder development promulgated by President Fox was in the middle of a sandy beach, with sand dunes upwind. The fishing village was mostly to the southeast, and a well-known windsurfing site was to the northwest.

From a coastal engineers standpoint, the area selected was in the middle of a “littoral cell,” which is an area where sand is transported along a coastline. It has come to be known that jetties built out from littoral cells accumulate sand up-current, and erode sand down-current from the jetty. The town was down-current. One of the early settlers of the town, whose property was on the east side, is rumored to have enticed his brother, under the influence of alcohol, to sign over title to his land on the west side and then this individual, with enough land to accommodate the highway and marina, ceded his land to the government for the marina development in exchange for money and rights to concessions at the new facility. He also built himself a large home at the top of the hill behind the town overlooking the marina. Advice from several quarters to put the marina at the southeastern end of the town, where the sand beach changed to rocky coastline went unheeded, and the jetties for the small harbor were built, right in the middle of a windswept, blowing sand beach. The results as monitored by Dr. Azdrubal Martinez of UABC for AMRF were predictable: 1) A gradual lessening of the slope of the beach with sand deposition seaward of the jetty, 2) A steepening of the beach with erosion in front of the town, and 3) Constant filling of the interior of the marina with sand, both blown by the wind and washed in by the sea.

Currently, the small warehouse where the artisanal fishery loads its catch into a refrigerated truck, is inundated with water during winter storms, and one of the houses built near the coast has lost a fence and a bathroom. The individual who ceded land for the marina began to make representations to government officials that he was the owner of the whole town. He was advised by his attorneys to pretend he didn’t know anybody in the town, presumably to add credibility to his claim that they were not original inhabitants. FONATUR, the government tourism agency, claimed they bought the whole town from this individual. To assert their claim, they began by bulldozing the soccer field and were preparing to do the same to the cemetery in order to build a hotel. The meager income of the fishermen had to be used to buy gasoline to drive to the government seat in San Quintin every 15 days to sign papers to gain rights to their property. When FONATUR was frustrated in their attempt to take the whole town, they decided to take the back part and put up a fence. Four village people went to jail for tearing down the fence, but actually the whole town participated. Their fine was set at $700/each but was reduced to $500 because that is all the money the townspeople had when they went to bail them out.

Since the standoff, the marina infrastructure has been completed, but sits idle. Two large Pemex fuel tanks are on the dock and a travel lift is ready to lift vessels up to a 22 foot beam for trailering to Los Angeles Bay on the gulf side of the peninsula. This presents a tragi-comic scene in a marina which is filled with sand, and where there is water, the average depth is about 2 feet. One improvement that the townspeople seem happy with is the arrival of electricity. Two months ago, the installation was complete with telephone poles, and every two months someone comes to read the electric meter in front of each house. The fishermen still use their solar panels to charge batteries and provide electricity like before during the frequent power outages on the new line.

Today, Santa Rosaliita is a town split in two. The family of the turncoat is isolated in their hilltop home and charge $5 a night for campers to camp at the windsurfing spot northwest of town. Members of the family on the hill do not enter the main town, nor do their children play with the children in town. They have a fine view of the bay, and the marina they helped create which will never service a vessel until major changes are made. The interior will have to be dredged almost continuously, as every day winds blow in large quantities of sand and currents bring sand in from upstream. The sand has made a ramp for itself over the jetty rocks, further facilitating its entry into the marina.
Capt. Moore

We spent a great deal of the day while in the town of Santa Rosaliita walking around talking with people and trying to better understand the scale of the changes already occuring to the beach and the town as well as how this place will change in the seasons and years to come. This harbor has only been in place for a few years now and already there is sand out to the end of the jetty on the windward side. The sand slopes up to the tops of the rocks covering them almost completely in spots, the new berm acts like a ramp for blowing sand which comes over it at an incredible rate even on a calm day depositing into the harbor on the other side. I can’t imagine this place ever being usable, much less profitable since the only way anyone will ever get to use the boat ramp and hoist will be to install a permanent dredge on sight.

Good photos of the calamity were a big part of the reason we made the trip, and I took lots of them.

Since we are saving bandwidth and emailing material in a semi-finished form to our friend Tim at Seanet Electronics in San Diego I’m captioning the photos by file name all in one place.
Jeff Ernst

The gas dock at Santa Rosaliita and the piers for the boat hoist.

The beach where our dingy is tied up was designed to accomidate easily a 50 foot power boat. The pier on the lefthand side is the outside pier of the 23 foot beam vertical hoist.

The new house of the man who no one talks to anymore, on his scenic hillside overlooking the unfinnished harbor.

The new road isnt safe from the shifting sand either, and in the calmest season it is still covered in sand in several spots.

The same guy that claimed to own the town and sold it to the govornment tries to charge people 5 dollars a night to camp on the newly improved beach above to the town and the harbor.

The town and harbor of Santa Rosaliita, note the breakwall which now has beach extending the length of what was a jetty sticking out perpendicularly to the shoreline.

The new beach

The next generation of Santa Rosaliita residence.

Checking the meter; the town of Santa Rosaliita got hooked into the power grid 2 months ago.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sampling at Cape Colnett

Cabo Colnett at sunset

We departed Wednesday night around 11pm from Marina Coral in Ensenada, heading south to Cabo Colnett. We were helping provide a marine biologist at the local university with bottom grab samples to help characterize the benthic invertebrate species within the several mile wide relatively shallow bay. Some of the samples we took were also set aside to be processed for POPs (persistent organic pollutants) and heavy metals. The combination gives researchers data with which to compare future samples using polychaete worms, and the sediments themselves as current baselines for the health of the bay and how human development; locally or in the heavy population centers not too far north, might be impacting the area. Until recently nobody had bothered with the expense of detailed marine monitoring in this area. With rather limited funding environmental monitoring programs in Baja need to pick and choose carefully, and; looking at the place in its current form, its clear why this wouldn’t be high on the list.
Backed against a crumbling cliff to the North and a small fishing village and surf spot to the South, Cabo Colnett supports an abundance of life and natural resources. However, development here looks much like it must have 100 years ago, a small collection of boats and shacks in various states of disrepair sit at the base of the cliff, no boat ramp to speak of, but a gentile gravel beach and a natural channel between the kelp forests to each side make for a natural substitute. There is ranch and farmland in the low valley further along the coastline, with a couple of houses here and there. There are no paved roads to anywhere within sight of the coast here and the fleet of open fishing boats that fish and dive the kelp paddies numbered less than a dozen on the day of our sampling trip. The small settlement to the south, Punta San Telmo had a launch ramp a church and a modest collection of old homes, which I presume are occupied almost entirely by the men we saw fishing and their families. There is also a surf camp for the “Cuatro Casas” surf break.
-Jeff Ernst
The peninsula known as Baja (Lower) California is undergoing uncontrolled, explosive development of its pristine coastline, largely as a result of its neighbor, Alta (Upper) California’s need to create infrastructure for its goods. Alta California refuses to allow these industrial developments on its own soil, because of the environmental and human health costs. Sempra Energy has built the first Liquid Natural Gas port facility at a beautiful headland known as Salsipuedes, in contravention of the Local Coastal Plan, which called for the area to be preserved as open space and natural habitat. It did this through heavy-handed political bribery. The gas will come by pipeline to the US and very little will be used in Mexico. The bay of Salsipuedes is the home of an aquaculture facility. In order to cool the LNG for shipment, 50 thousand cubic meters of seawater per hour will have chlorine added to it at the rate of 50 kg/hr. This water will then be pumped out into Salsipuedes bay after its temperature has been raised 7 degrees C. It is doubtful that the aquaculture operation, let alone the kelp forest and its creatures, can survive this relentless insult, day in day, out, year after year.
A second development, the mega-port of Cape Colnett, is currently being planned to take cargo which would have gone to LA/Long Beach, had the citizens of LA County not rebelled at the health and quality of life costs of expanding their ports to accommodate the goods of globalization (95% of all manufactured goods are transported by ships). This port will have the longest breakwater ever built, 8 kilometers, and enclose a huge bay, which currently has a great surfbreak (cuatro casas), an enormous kelp forest and a sustainable fishery. The point itself at Cape Colnett is reminiscent of Dana Point before development.
We just finished sampling 20 stations for bottom dwelling (benthic) organisms to get baseline data on what may be changed forever if the development goes through like Sempra’s did. There are three main reasons the project doesn’t make economic sense. First, the goods will go by a new rail line to the United States near the border of California and Arizona. Their final destination will be the Central and Eastern US, however. Second, the Arctic ice cap is melting and the Northwest Passage will be a reality for ships from Asia to reach the East Coast. Thirdly, the port will take jobs away from port workers in LA/Long Beach, since labor costs will be less in Mexico, and environmental protections will be less as well, lowering costs for shippers.
-Cpt Charles Moore
I’m including three other photographs although they are a bit lower quality than the last several posts because I have to use the satellite connection. We just dropped anchor off San Quintin and are planning to spend the night here heading out early tomorrow to keep making time south.

1: a sandstone cliff butted up right against the shore and a thick line of kelp

2: the only visitors to the beach that day

3: fishing the old fashioned way

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pt San Miguel

So we just got out of the water after motoring over pre dawn to surf point san miguel at first light. Decent waves and completely to ourselves both Charlie and myself got some good rides and some nice hollow little chest high tubes. Im posting up a picture of the surf break but it was take after we got out and the tide came up too much for how small a swell it is to really show anything impressive.

The other pictures are of a Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias, that used our front railing for a rest stop yesterday evening while we were tied up in port at Marina Coral. It was gracious enough to sit around while i took its picture a few times and since we still have high speed internet im posting the three best ones


We depart this evening for Cabo Colnett, the area of of interest for our Mexican colleges where we will be preforming bottom grabs in hopes of using polycheate worms in the sediments as an indicator species, showing changes in the levels of toxins (pop,s heavy metals etc) in the area prior to a possible major development project.

More on this later, as work begins.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Blue Whales and Todos Santos

Yesterday we took the Alguita on a short hop across the water to Todos Santos Island, home to the infamous Killers, the aptly named stand out surf spot that took the biggest winter wave contest some years back, and now beacons big wave surfers from around the world with 60 foot faces on the big winter swells.
Algalita and the Alguita have been involved with the kelp forest habitat out on these islands since joint monitoring began in the early 1990s. In conjunction with a then student of the University of Baja Califronia at Ensenada Lydia Ladah, we have helped improve kelp habitat at that site; and in the 15 years or so since monitoring began the kelp beds off, the lighthouse island are healthy and alive, teaming with all sorts of organisms. We were just observing this trip checking on one of the organizations longest projects while we were in the area.
The visibility wasn't great and the water was pretty chilly if you got more than 10 feet below the surface, so we spent most of our time exploring the upper canopy and checking out the smallest of the two islands on foot, and of coarse fishing

The trip back from Todos Santos was the really exciting part of the day t, we came across a group of Blue Whales, which moved in a giant slow circle coming up to breath leisurely and often almost without exception as a pair. Today we found out they have been just hanging out in the bay where we saw them since April. Blue Whale travel habits are rather poorly understood but the cold, deep nutrient rich waters coming out the very canyon that makes this place such a stand out surf spot, must provide good feeding grounds for a pair of whales in the know.

Todos Santos seen on the trip out from Ensenada yesterday morning

The scariest break on the island Thor's Hammer on a small day it still pitches into the rocks with some force. Pelicans cruising overhead in formation

whales whales and more whales! can you guess who got a new telephoto lens?

More cool stuff when it comes up,


Back in Mexico!

I'msitting around digesting lunch on a sunny monday afternoon in Ensenada, the boat is on its first major trip since our stint in drydock, and most of the items on the fix-it list are done. Currently we are using the internet connection at the Marina Coral Hotel in Ensenada so here are some high res photos cronicaling our adventure from Long Beach to San Diego to Todos Santos to here. After Wednesday we will be using the satellite connection to upload images which requires us to be a bit more frugal, so enjoy.

Point Loma in the mid afternoon of Friday the 1st, as we depart San Diego, not much in the way of good sailing wind but we managed to motor sail most of the way to the Coronado's for a quick snorkel dive and some bird watching.

Middle Rock at the Coronado Islands, a series of fairly small and uninhabited Islands belonging to Mexico that actually lie just north of the border off San Diego. This little white washed island represents the furthest known breeding location for Brown Boobies that we know of. It also attracts all sorts of other birds which are rarely seen that far north anywhere else.

Shown in the first picture is; to the best of my investigating, a Brown morph of a Red Footed Boobie Sula sula along with a Blue Footed Boobie Sula nebouxii with a Brandt's Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus in the background.

Picture two is a Blue Footed Boobie handing out on a rock.

Picture three is Boobie right after takeoff.

Picture four is a a rock covered in... Cormorants.

Im still behind by one day worth of cool stuff and good photos, more comming.
Stay tuned,


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Out of Drydock!

So Its been a while since the Alguita has been on any blog worthy adventures and we finally got one on the return trip from an overdue haul out in San Diego. 

We left on the Sunday of 4th of July weekend through a maze of zigzagging sailboats and powerboats of all shapes and sizes. Once we finally got clear of the kelp beds off Point Loma we set a coarse for the state park near San Onofre where we planned on surfing that night. 
 Everything was business as usual when suddenly I saw a whale spout to our inside, and it was huge! A group of Blue Whales, the first I have ever personally seen; I would estimate 6-8 of them in a range of sizes were circling what appeared to be a giant school of small fish made evident by all the diving birds in the middle of the whales giant circle. We were never close enough to these animals to get any pictures of them but it was a fascinating site to see so many of the largest animal on this planet so close to shore and right of San Diego! 
 We couldn’t linger too long, it was getting later in the afternoon and we needed to make the state beach before sunset to drop anchor and surf. The surf mission was most successful and both the Captain and myself surfed until dark when we picked up anchor and headed back for long beach. 

We have been busy with a combination of boat maintenance and lab work that seems at times endless however, look for new blog posting during our 3 week trip to Mexico starting in August.


The first two pictures are of the Alguita being dropped back into the water with a new bottom paint lob and a lot of touch up and cleaning, this lift is the only one in southern California (at the least) that can pick her up, and with only a few inches to spare on each side at that. 

The other picture is a dredge, which was at that time sitting not too far south of the state beach, where we surfed that night.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday 2/6/08

Our current position: 1610 PST, Lat: 33 07.00N, Long: 118 30.65W, heading 280 at 2 knots w/ Junk in tow.

As I’m sure most of our readership is aware the raft Junk was ceremoniously launched from Rainbow Harbor, Long Beach yesterday afternoon in front of a cheering crowd of well over a thousand, bound for Hawaii via the slowest method available. The Alguita was full up with 10 people traveling overnight to Avalon; Junk in tow, where the 60 Minutes Australia film crew, and two volunteers from Save Our Shores in Santa Cruz Emily and Aleah, who had come down to help out and be part of the event.

The large procession of friends and onlookers we had traveling with us as we departed rainbow harbor dwindled through yesterday afternoon and evening, by the morning it was just Alguita Junk and the Banyan, Jody Lemons Sailboat and the Junks escort for the first two hundred miles or so.

We will tow the raft through the night and up until tomorrow evening. By then hopefully we will be far enough from land for the prevailing winds to coming from a favorable direction, and then it’s a downhill ride for junk all the way to Hawaii.

In almost unrelated matters, The regular crew of Alguita (Charlie, Sam, and myself), spent the morning and early afternoon Saturday at the Newport Back-bay Science Center open house. For Anyone who lives in Orange County or more specifically anyone who lives in part of its highly developed watershed this is an important place, helping to both educate the public and conduct long term monitoring as well as restoration of the natural lands left in that area.

The Picture is of the Junk under tow with Rainbow Harbor in the background, you can also see the Banyan, the green sailboat that is behind Junk


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Alguita returned yesterday from an overnight trip acting as tow and the escort for the first and only sea trial of the vessel Junk, http://junkraft.blogspot.com/. The raft, constructed out of 15,000 plastic bottles is setting sail for Hawaii on the 1st of next month and I think everyone is happy to say the trip was quite successful.

We maximized our time out on the water and ran two manta trawls last night hoping to capture some myctophids or lantern fish to add to our collection caught in almost all of our night time trawls by the dozens on our trip back from Hawaii.

Myctophids are a large fish family consisting of 246 species in 33 genera and can be found in almost any oceans of the world that provide sufficient depth for them to retreat down to open darkness at 300-1200 meters during the day. But at night they are quite abundant and a significant constituent of the largest daily migration on the planet, of organisms from the depth of the ocean up to the surface to feed.

On the trip back from Hawaii an interesting question was raised when we saw over and over again so many of these fish mixed in with so much plastic debris. The fish that were captured in our manta trawls from the trip home have all been separated out and are currently being analyzed by our resident ichthyologist Christiana, who to date has done a gut content analysis on over 200 of these fish finding plastic fragments in the stomachs of 38% of the fish, with a record maximum size piece of 5mm.

We caught a few fish in the trawls from 2 nights ago but no myctophidae that I could identify in the field. It remains to be seen what we will find once we get the samples back into the lab, but my suspicion is that its simply too shallow a habitat for this species to be in any high abundance.

The picture is of the Junk (proper noun), as it sets sail speeding up to a brisk 3/4ths of a knott; it’s a long ways to Hawaii.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

The first comprehensive survey of the habitat of the Xantus Murrelet was completed last night by Harry Carter, Darrel Whitworth and Percy Hebert. Using a Zodiac inflatable and a bright spotlight, they have counted everyone of these night-active murrelets seen around all the Pacific Islands of Baja California and Alta California from Isla Asuncion to San Miguel Island. This has been a labor of 7 years for these dedicated seabird biologists. It will be a while before final numbers are known, but the data gathered will be of great benefit in protecting this threatened species that nests near the waters edge in tiny caves and whose chicks stumble down into the sea at only 2 days old, where they are then fed by their parents.

Here at San Clemente Island there are an abundance of California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher). Small sheephead are all females until they become sexually mature, but after a few years, almost all will become males. The change in sex is accompanied by a change in color and body form which can be seen as a gradient in the attached photo. Notice the darkening of the area near the tail and the enlarging of the head and brow.

Today, Jeff and I made a survey of the beach at Pyramid cove and found a float like the fenders we use on Alguita and a 55 gal drum for fuel among other debris. Unfortunately, one of the sea lions at Seal Cove has fallen victim to an ugly looking strap which is eating into its neck. Darrel and Harry took the photo. We don't have a razor rod like Harry used at the Farallones to free this animal. It may end up as one of the troubling statistic by Wallace who estimated 100,000 marine mammals die each year in the North Pacific from entanglement in marine debris.
Tonight the team will take blood samples in order to determine the genetic structure of world population of Xantus murrelets.
Posted by Captain Charles Moore

Friday, April 25, 2008

Its 0302, I was prodded awake about half an hour ago by a combination of Hip Hop and unnecessary lighting. Charlie has an interview with something or another at 0600 tomorrow and went to bed for a few hours himself telling me to wait for the survey crew to get back hopefully before the sun comes up, again. I haven’t really slept more than a few hours at a time since we left Ensenada or maybe the day before that. My other instructions were to do the blog, which apparently since it was two in the morning meant I hadn’t done it since the day before yesterday…I think he hid my book.

So I finally read the comments for the last couple posts thanks for not being spam. To address the grey whale migration question and what we were actually seeing off of San Martin Island. We had a good debate still left somewhat unsettled amongst the crew as to how many whales we saw and wither they were hanging out around the island or passing through.

The time of year is right for whales to be moving northward with new calves to go feed up in the rich waters of the Bering Sea until its time to do it all over again next season. However sometimes mothers and calves will stay much longer and may not even migrate at all for the first season being witnessed around San Martin Island even during the middle of the summer.

To the blood samples question. We are only getting a drop of blood from each bird preserved on a piece of filter paper, which is enough for a genetic analysis. This Will hopefully help further out understanding of how these birds divide themselves up into populations, by getting samples from birds at all the islands they are known to socially congregate on.

The picture is of a navy vessel we passed on the way into San Diego yesterday morning.

Ok ill post more stuff later, I’m going to go make toast.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two long nights

The last two nights have been spent capturing Xantus Murrelets, which gather to socialize on the water around Geronimo Island at night. The capture permit was for 50 blood samples and we managed to get that done last night after a marathon 35 samples collected the night before.

The Alguita left Geronimo this morning at around 3am and we are now back and San martin prepping (playing cards and sitting around), for another long night of the same thing at a different place.

The first picture was taken from shore showing the Alguita taking off to circle around the island for a Pelican and Cormorant survey while four of us on shore looked for nesting Murrelets hiding in burrows along the
coastline and rocky outcroppings of the island.

The second picture is courtesy of Percy N. Hébert and his 300mm lens of which I’m jealous, showing a grey whale fluke as it dives back down after taking a breath. One of thousands that we have probably seen as they pass by San Martin Island on their way back north.

Thats it for now, stay tuned for more whenever I get a chance


Sunday, April 20, 2008

San Martin and Geronimo Islands

Finally a free moment to update the blog, I’m watching the boat while the research team and captain conduct a thorough bird survey of Geronimo Island. We surveyed the entire coastline and most of the upper sections of San
Martin Island yesterday the picture of the California Sea Lions posted was taken their yesterday
morning when a group of 4 of us were dropped off in a small sheltered cove to survey the coastline of the island by foot, looking for signs of an Auklet colony. The birds had been there in the recent past, as we learned by the presence of old nest burrows and several dead birds; but no live birds were seen during the coarse of the day. We did however see a reason why burrowing birds might have trouble nesting on this island, San Martin has a native snake of which we saw several two of those 4 feet or better in length.

We left San Martin in the middle of the night arriving around 8am at Geronimo Island, as we approached the lines started screaming and we wound up with two Bonita before we got distracted by the whales. A good sized pod of Grey Whales sat between us and the island, many of them can still be seen swimming in tight pairs of mother and calf in every direction of my horizon not obstructed by the island. They seem to inhabit the entirety of the deep water up against the outside edge of the kelp forest that surrounds the island.

Well that’s it for now. I'll try to post again soon, maybe with interesting information about the birds living on Geronimo Island when the team gets back.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Corondo Islands

We traveled through the night from long beach to San Diego Wednesday arriving at 7am with a group of scientists from California Institute of Environmental Studies waiting at the boat ramp. Wasting no time we headed strait to the Coronado Islands an important nesting ground for a wide variety of birds ranging from pelicans to Periguin falcons.

In the last few years there has been a new addition to the myriad birds nesting in this area, the Brown Footed Boobie Sula leucogaster, making this the farthest north this species has ever been recorded to roost. The colony first established itself roughly three years ago with just a few roosting birds on the middle rock of the Coronado’s. However the popularity of this region for nesting seems to be growing and this year we saw them nesting in previously unused areas of the island.

Since we are in Ensenada tonight and not having to upload via our slow and expensive satellite internet connection we are going photo happy. The two photos of birds show both juvenile and adult phases of the Brown Footed Boobie, along with a shot of the main nesting ground, and a picture of North Coronado Island taken from the south end.
more to come hopefully tomorrow,
Jeff Ernst

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Management

    So if you didn’t notice this place has been a little bit dead since the Alguita got back safely to California. The people responsible for keeping this blog going while at sea (mainly Anna) all split off in different directions with new and exciting projects and no one has updated this blog since.
This seemed like a shame since the Alguita has been on several noteworthy adventures since its return home with no one telling the public about it. So to remedy this I will be taking over the majority of the managing of this blog and intend to keep updating it on a semi regular basis.

We are departing tomorrow on a 2-week bird survey of the Channel Islands; stay tuned for updates!

Jeff Ernst
1st mate, ORV Alguita

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Welcome home to ORV Alguita and crew!

ORV Alguita and crew have arrived safely in Long Beach, CA after a very successful month-long research voyage!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Endings and beginnings

Our noon position: Almost home! Latitude: 35 55.923 North Longitude:118 45.508

Hola ORV Alguita friends, and Ship to Shore students,

A huge thanks to the students from West Lafayette, Lennox Elementary and Middle School, the Environmental Charter High, Animo Leaderhsip Academy, Brooksbank Elementary, Luis A Rivera School, Gilmour Academy Middle School, Burbank Middle School, George Washington High, Parker Middle School, Geilenkirchen Elementary, Programa Escuela a Bordo- Centro Aqua Sendas, Cowan Road Middle School, Edwards Middle School, Point Fermin Elementary, Winthrop Elementary, and the many friends and supporters

This is the final morning of our journey… and the beginning of new adventures for all of us. Including a big one for two of our crew members - Anna and Marcus were so enamored of their experience on board that they decided to spend a lifetime doing this..... together! We figure Anna is probably the only woman to be proposed to in the North Pacific Gyre, sitting atop the boom of a research vessel....or to receive a ring woven together from rope debris.

It’s been so great to have you all on board! Your support raised our spirits, and we loved reading your comments – something we looked forward to every day. We may have another equally exciting adventure coming up – so stay tuned. There will be opportunities for many of you to join in, and possibly even help us build a boat…..More about this later, so do keep in touch.

We had a tidal wave of questions from West Lafayette: Byrozoans are a subcategory of phyla called "Lophophorates", characterized by a whorl of feeding tentacles. Bryozoans are known as "moss animals", they have a moss like appearance, but they are more like worms. And often form their "homes" on floating debris, like you've seen in our photos.

You also asked about barnacle foam. As you know, we've been sailing in the ocean for 4 weeks without sight of land. Our strategy to keep afloat is to use a 50 ft. sailboat, but what strategies do other creatures in the gyre use? Some walk on water, like Halobaites, a water-strider and the only seagoing insect. Another is a small purple snail that makes bubbles to stay afloat. Then others, like the crabs, just swim until they find something to grab onto. But the Gooseneck barnacle, if it cannot find debris to cling to, will secete a foam that looks like styrofoam. A small colony of a dozen individuals will build a foam raft together about the size of a golf ball. These are just a few of the millions of specialized adaptations that marine organisms employ to survive in unique places, like the middle of the sea.

And a few of you wanted a quick summary of what exactly we were doing, and if we found what we were looking for, so here goes:

The purpose of this trip was to continue “documenting”, or gathering evidence, to answer some important questions about the health of our oceans, and ultimately our own:

· How much plastic debris is there floating on the surface of the North Pacific Ocean?

· Does the amount of plastic debris outweigh the amounts of plankton? How might this be affecting the marine creatures that feed on plankton?

· Are marine creatures like seabirds, fish, salps etc. eating plastic debris, mistaking it for food?

· If fish are eating plastic contaminated with toxic pollutants, and we are eating fish…..how might this be impacting our health?

We were specifically researching a massive region – a weather system in fact – called the North Pacific Gyre. You can read more here about the Gyre. It’s like a HUGE whirlpool- stretching from California to Japan that keeps trash circulating around in its currents for decades.

We know this plastic trash is a problem. We know it doesn’t belong here, thousands of miles from land. We know its not good for marine creatures to be eating it, and that its morally wrong for us to be fouling up their home.

But in order to get the world to pay attention, and start making changes, we need to PROVE it. We need accurate data, and real hard numbers, so we can bring this information to governments, industries, and the public, and show them just how serious this issue has become.

And what did we find? If you’ve been reading the blog, by now you should have a pretty good idea of what we found……lots of plastic. We won’t know exactly how much until we get all of our samples to the lab and start processing them, but we can tell you for sure that the amounts have increased significantly since Captain Moore began studying this area ten years ago. In fact, one of our crewmates, Jeff – our youngest on board, will be working directly with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to help process these samples. Over the coming weeks, he may be able to share this with you – take you inside our lab, and tell you a bit about how we process our samples. You can all see what its like to be a scientist!

Did we find what we were looking for? We gathered a ton of information, but our research is far from over, and we still have many, many questions. We do have enough information though to know without a doubt that the flow of plastic trash to our oceans has got to stop now, and that we will need governments, industries, the media, and all of you to get involved with making some big changes!

And addressing one final, critical question from Jeff’s father, who clearly empathized with our food cravings… No sooner did we hit land yesterday –stopped in Morro Bay for a key refuel – then a few of us bolted for the nearest market in search of FRESH PRODUCE. We found a little health food store, and bought what we thought was a good quantity of veggie matter – kale, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, red peppers, and a bunch of fruit…We inhaled a few peppers and apples on the walk back to port, tore through the raw kale standing in the kitchen, and last night wolfed down a huge salad with the remaining veggies. In this case, our stomachs were bigger than our eyes! Your son spoke wistfully about doughnuts…

All in all, this trip has been a culinary wonder, with three avid chefs on board, we enjoyed superlative cuisine daily. Much food for thought, in many, many ways.

Thanks again for your support, and as always, a final Aloha and gracias from the Captain and Crew of the ORV Alguita!