Thursday, January 24, 2008

The calm before the storm

Our noon position: Latitude 21 39.297 N, Longitude 160 32.787 W.

Day three. Heading North, and beginning to notice plastic debris on the rise. Upon sunrise, we spotted a small, rocky island in the distance, named Kaula, off Kauai to which we headed seeking wind protection for our first sampling of the day. We reached the Island by late morning – a stark, barren yet beautiful half caldera lunarscape protruding sharply from the sea. The only signs of visible life were a dense cloud of Noddy Terns hovering atop the crest, along with an incongruous group of old rockets, which appeared ready to launch, possibly a vestige from the cold war.

Here Marcus, Herb, Jeff, and Joel examine our first sample for plastic content.

Our first three trawls, to the naked eye, yielded scattered pieces of plastic, a few visible nurdles, and a host of colorful organisms - numerous Vellelidea “blue buttons”, copepods, salps, Portuguese Man O War, and other miniscule creatures. We won’t know for certain how much plastic these samples contain until we bring them back to our lab.

Taking advantage of relatively calm seas before some predicted squalls, we set out 2 final night trawls, and noticed a marked increase in plastic particles. And we're still hundreds of miles from the convergence zone…..

Crossing the Pacific – In February?

As promised yesterday, a bit more background on the research goals guiding this mission. And answers to a question repeated by several concerned friends and family:

· "Why did you choose the middle of winter to cross the North Central Pacific?"

The primary goal is to test the hypothesis that marine debris concentrations will be highest in the winter, when the current-driven surface convergence zone is formed. This concept was put forward in the recently published paper, Marine Debris Collects Within the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, mentioned earlier.

Finding and removing marine debris, especially discarded fishing nets, is an extremely costly process. So coming up with ways to better predict where these debris concentrations might occur is of great interest to marine research and conservation organizations.

DELI – the Debris Estimated Likelihood Index – was designed for this purpose. Using chlorophyll concentrations and sea surface temperatures – two factors among others that correlate to debris concentrations, DELI is expected to locate debris concentrations in our vast, seemingly infinite ocean.

As these studies were conducted by aerial surveys, sampling in the winter would have been extremely difficult if not impossible. Winter storms disperse surface debris into the water column, while whitecaps and confused seas obscure vision from above. So although debris concentrations are likely highest in the winter months, no one has yet been able to verify this. Until, possibly, now…..

Though trash is mainly what we’re looking for, wildlife sightings are always a welcome addition. Today we spotted two humpbacks – a mother and her calf, two Laysan Albatross, a red-footed booby, (shown here) and countless invertebrates in our samples.

Our last sample for the day collected at 9 pm, we raised our Genoa jib, and are cruising steadily through the night, heading for two more islands in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Park to collect samples before we reach our main research area.

We should reach Nihoa Island tomorrow morning, and Nekker Island the following – anecdotes and photos to follow.

Aloha from the ORV Alguita Crew, thank you for your support…and if you have any good banana recipes, send them our way - we have a raft of bananas all set to ripen simultaneously!


Sam said...

I'm watching with great trepidation at what your voyage will find. I hope your research helps us all understand the magnitude of the plastic problem and encourages more poeple to actively try and do something about it.
About your bananas, try them in pancakes, peanut butter sandwiches, skewered with roasted marshmallows, tossed in a smoothie, frozen, in fruit salad, dipped in coconut batter and fried, bananas foster or banana nut bread.

Hermanita said...

How could Chiquita Anna Banana be at a loss for banana ideas! I check your blog every morning with my tea...about as comforting a routine one can ask for with her sister out at sea. Jackie of course is printing out the messages daily so that Mom and Dad can sleep at night - but to save the paper, I suggested nice color copies so you can have a hard copy when you return.

What an amazing crew and mission. It's quite a thrill to track your progress and I have forwarded the blog to just about everyone I have ever met in my life - and many schools too.

Stay sane... and safe - and watch that mercury intake... hehe.

g:montine said...

Kickin' Banana Bread: ENJOY!

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg & 1 egg white, beaten
1 dash cinnamon (optional)
1/2 finely chopped apple optional)
handful of diced cranberries (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)

No need for a mixer with this recipe.

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the
mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.

2 Mix in the sugar, egg, espresso, cinnamon, and vanilla.

3 Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.

4 Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts, apples, and cranberries.

5 Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 30ish minutes.
Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a
muffin. If it comes out clean, it's done. Cool on a rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

Jeff's Mom said...

Here's Jeff's favorite banana bread originally from his great grandmother.
1 and 3/4c. flour
2/3c. sugar
1/2tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/2tsp. baking powder
1/2tsp. salt
1/2c. oil
3 bananas mashed
2 eggs,beaten
Mix dry ingred. Mix mashed bananas,oil,eggs. Add to dry ingred. Stir until just blended. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan and bake 55-60 min. at 350.

I love seeing pictures of Jeff on the blog. I can see that he's safe and happy-even if he DIDN'T SEND HIS MOTHER PICTURES BEFORE HE LEFT!

Jeff's Mom (Kathe)

Auntie Sherry said...

I love this blog!
For an easy banana dish, try this:
Baked Bananas ingredients list:

4 firm bananas.
2 medium lemons, grated rind and juice.
¼ cup of brown sugar.
¼ cup of melted butter.
Instructions for Baked Bananas:

Slice the bananas in half lengthwise.

Place cut side of the bananas down in a buttered baking dish.

Brush the bananas with lemon juice; then sprinkle with grated lemon rind and brown sugar.

Top of the bananas with butter.

Bake at 350°F (175°C) for about minutes.

weeber said...

This is an old fave recipe of my dad's of course I've substituted a veggie loaf for the meat.

Meatloaf Surprise

1 large onion, chopped
1 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 cups (about) finely grated carrots
5 eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup quick oats
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Steam first 4 ingredients in small amount of water or vegetable broth until tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, place grated carrots into a large bowl. Add remaining
ingredients. Add steamed vegetables; mix well.
3. Half-fill 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans (or use nonstick spray). Lay one banana in the middle of each pan, then cover with the rest of the loaf mixture. Bake at 350*F (175*C) for 1 hour, covering the loaves with foil if they begin to dry too much.

Makes 6 servings.