Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Return to the Garbage Patch sampled in 1999

Today was a day of discovery. It is always interesting from a monitoring standpoint to go back to the same geographical area and re-sample it the same way to determine if a trend is developing. We are running in reverse the transects of the Eastern Garbage Patch that we did in 1999. In the summer of '99 we sampled from east to west and from north to south. Since we are coming from Hawaii and not California, we will sample from south to north and from west to east. We are trawling the same course and distance, even the time of day is the same to eliminate as many variables as possible. Our first of a dozen trawls was then #12, the last one done in 1999. I remember that sample well, it was the most contaminated by plastic bits of any sample we got that trip. Since it is wintertime, and the wind was blowing about 15 knots, which created a rougher ocean surface than in 1999 when we first came to the area, I thought that the plastic bits would be dispersed in the water column, and not show up in our surface manta trawl. Imagine my surprise when our net not only pulled up what appeared to be substantially more small plastic particles than 9 years ago, but also part of a blue crate that was so big it had to be removed back through the mouth of the net. The exponential increase in debris seen off the coast of Japan, appears to be happening here as well. After two trawls, we sea anchored for a night tank dive. The beautiful invertebrates and filter feeders of the gyre were on stunning display. We'll see what Joel captured on the video tape tomorrow.

Aloha and buenas noches from ORV Alguita.


Clif said...

Your expedition makes me think of entropy...that things disperse until they are uniformly distributed and there is no local concentration. I toss away my plastic toothbrush, it disintegrates and, eventually, pieces of it are distributed throughout the world...blowing in the winds of the sahara and floating the most remote places in the ocean. You know, I'm sure, of the geologic indium layer found worldwide that has been used to support the theory of a meteor impact long ago...perhaps far in the future it will be a thin (maybe thick!) plastic layer that will testify to man's presence in history. So, I'm writing a note to bury with the hope it will survive the ages and be found in the plastic layer. On it, I am writing, "Hey, at least some of us recycled!"

Clif said...

Oops, I think it was iridium, not indium!

Sr. Chief said...

The Ventura County Star just posted a nice story and a couple of pictures about the ORV Alguita, its crew and its mission. Jeff was featured since he was the local boy (and I made the paper aware of the story). What can I say? I'm his Dad and could not be prouder. You seem to getting more and more interest from a variety of people and organizations. 10 days and a wake-up left on your current mission. We hope your last 10 days are as successful as the first 23 days have been.

Green ECHS said...

Awesome work Marcus, Anna and crew... We're checking out your blog during 7th period Green Ambassadors. Jose is asking if its a possibility to clean up the gyre completely... What's the prognosis? Rodolfo is asking, besides the plastic, what's the worst thing you have encountered on this trip? And Raven is wondering, how this research you're conducting can help the world?

Marcus... an update on the bioplastics you helped us make before winter break: We came back from holiday to discover mold had completely taken root (in patches) throughout. It definitely looked like a science experiment (but not bioplastic) - ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing)... Safe journey!!