Today was another day of record calm seas – even more than yesterday. There’s even a scale we use to measure the “sea state” –called the Beaufort Scale, ranging from 0-11. At 11, imagine an angry, stormy sea – with epic winds, waves between 37-52 feet. Generally, we’ve been experiencing seas of 4-5…Today was a 0. Seas so calm they almost looked oily – scarcely a ripple. Perfect day for a photo shoot, some boat repairs, and the last few trawls in final study.
As the whole crew is up, waiting to pull in our evening trawl, we thought we’d do a round robin reply to some of yesterday’s wonderful blog comments. So here’s Marcus, Jeff, Joel and Charlie chiming in! We love all your questions, so keep ‘em coming, were homeward bound soon!
Dear Environmental Charter High School,
What do you mean there’s mold on our bioplastic? Gross! I would like to see it for myself soon after I return from the Gyre Expedition on Friday, Feb. 22. Maybe the following week, and I’ll bring you a sample of the ocean surface from 2000 miles west of Los Angeles. I see you’ve got a few questions.
“Is it possible to clean up the gyre?” It’s like trying to vacuum a teaspoon of sand spread out over a football field. And keep in mind that the ¼ of the Pacific Ocean we study represents about 850 million football fields. The solution is to stop using disposable plastics now.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve encountered on this trip?” We’ll besides plastic trash there’s getting seasick. Besides that it’s got to be stubbing my toes on every metal thing that sticks out on this boat. And, well, having a 5 foot Mako shark follow me and Anna while snorkeling at night. Actually, that was kinda cool.
“How can the research you’re conducting help save the world?” I believe that people want to do the right thing, but they have to know what the right thing is. Millions of tons of plastic in the ocean means nothing to people if they never learn about it. For a few years now I’ve been carrying a sample of the mid-Pacific Ocean with me. I’ve discovered that when I show it to people, they often say, “It’s wrong that our trash is out there. What can I do?” I’ve heard this same sentiment from children, adults, movie stars and politicians. People care, but someone has to be the messenger.
See you soon,
The iridium layer is a great analogy for a likely plastic layer that will identify the “Plasticene Age” of the 21st century. I would like to take your analogy further. The iridium layer is a catastrophic event that separates the Age of Dinosaurs from the Age of Birds and Mammals. The iridium spike is accompanied by layers of carbon and shocked quartz, and followed by a period of low biodiversity, save for a fern spike. The Plasticene of our times is perhaps equally damaging.
Our study area of 2.5 million square miles has an estimated 14 million metric tons of plastic floating around. Some of which may find it’s way to the ocean floor as it becomes fouled by encrusting organisms, making it sink. On land this happens with heavy plastics, like polycarbonate and PVC that travel down our watersheds becoming sediment in lakes, rivers and streams. So, just to agree with you, there will be a plastic layer. Will it be a punctuated catastrophic event like the KT mass extinction evidenced by iridium? The exponential growth in disposable plastic products parallels plastic accumulation in the marine environment. The environmental and human health impacts are quickly becoming known. The Age of Disposable Plastics is over, but not until we break the myth of plastics recycling as it is currently done. More on that later.
Here's the Captain responding to a question about the tagging buoys:
Kaisa wanted to know about tagging the ghost nets with a satellite transmitter - what's that all about?
Well, the buoy is really cool, it has some batteries inside that are charged by a solar panel on top. It has a transmitter that sends out the position of the buoy via satellite once or twice a day. The manufactuerer of the buoy, Airborne Technologies, can track where the buoy is. On our gyre voyage last year aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, we actually found one the buoys we had deployed a year earlier from Alguita and retagged the net with a new buoy. That will give a longer life to the tracking process. Ultimately the goal of tagging these nets is to remove them before they damage the resources of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Right now, NOAA is preparing to send a vessel armed with an unmanned drone airplane to the area where the nets have been found to accumulate, and see if they can find more than just the tagged ones by seeing what the drone sees as it flys over the area.. Hopefully, they will be able to pick some of them up, but as of now, none have been retrieved that have been tagged. Alguita has tagged six of these nets and debris masses with the buoys since 2005. You can see some of the tracks the nets made at www.highseasghost.net.
And here’s Jeff, our ship celebrity! (You can read about him in the news here.)
So in light of my new found fame and near celebrity status(the local paper), it was deemed necessary for me to give a shout out to all my fans out there in blogland. Its almost 11pm our time and everyone is sitting around killing time before we drop the next trawl in the water. Anna just (barely) lost a game of chess to Joel, and I just came in from reading outside up on the boom. When the sail is down and the sea isn’t too rough it’s a nice place to lay around, with a good view of a waxing moon poking through the clouds. I want to say hi and thanks to my father who seems to have way too much free time on his hands and got an article run about AMRF and myself in the Ventura County Star. And of course my mom who is probably still at this very moment fretting about some aspect of my safety. It's going to be good to see everyone back in California.
Aloha and gracias from the Captain and Crew of ORV Alguita!