Wednesday, October 7, 2009
ORV Alguita and crew have returned safely to Long Beach, California after a successful research voyage. Thank you all for following along! In the photo below the crew receives their well deserved chocolate, chocolate cake.
Here are links to read more about Alguita's arrival in the News:
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Day 29 Monday 10/5/09
When I woke for my last morning alone on the ORV Alguita, it was anything but. Gwen, who does the watch before me, decided to stay up with me due to the problems Lindsey and Jeff were having with the auto pilot. The wind kicked up to over 40 knots causing the auto pilot to fail. The only way to handle the situation was to change course, and if need be steer. There was no beating into the winds. It would also require a sail change from the genoa jib to the staysail, but the captain didn’t want to risk someone getting hurt or blown overboard by the assaulting winds so we traveled off course at 10 knots per hour getting nowhere fast. Bill, who comes on after my shift, was also up due to the outlandish banging under the ship. Few could sleep.
Gwen, who takes good care of this blogger, often times let me sleep in an extra 15 minutes. Today it was an hour. I didn’t change my watch when we sailed into the Pacific Daylight Saving Times yesterday so when I looked at my watch at 0345, I figured I was ahead of the game. It was actually 0445. Not letting on that I was late, nor did she try to wake me, Gwen had just started the tea pot on the stove for me.
Yesterday I was running late too, only that time it was because I was making my way out of the top bunk, a wave came and literally threw me. I fell out of my bunk 4” down landing on the top of my left toes (don’t ask). To add insult to injury I slammed into the side of Gwen’s bed, trashing my leg all in one full swoop. It took a minute for me to rub out the sting. The captain, who has something for everything, came out of his state room with some all natural salve that eases out bruises. It worked on my leg, but the middle toe on my left foot is perhaps broken. Ugg.
We rolled into Avalon, Catalina Island, with a circus show of several sea birds and sea lions. (they swam beside our boat as if so happy to see us!) 3,460 nautical miles later!!!
We walked around the island like drunken sailors though not having a drink. It’s called dock rock. Once on a boat for any length of time and then off, one feels the world rock when while off the boat! We met Faith in the restaurant we had dinner at tonight, a six year old Girl Scout who her and her older sister had accolades for the captain’s work on protecting the oceans. Great to meet both of you!!!
We’re rocking on the island and look forward to seeing everyone at the Algalita Headquarters tomorrow afternoon! Thank you Gwen, Cooper, Lindsey, Jeffy Pop and especially Captain Moore for an experience of a lifetime, but more importantly, allowing me to see the unseen, plastics accumulating in our defenseless ocean.
Hopefully I’ll see many of you tomorrow! Bonnie
SEE POST BELOW FOR DIRECTIONS TO THE PARTY!!!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Tuesday October 6, 4pm- 6pm (Arrive as early as possible)
Location: AMRF Office
148 Marina Drive, Long Beach, CA 90803
Click here to view the location in Google Maps
Phone: (562) 598-4889
Come celebrate Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita's return from her historic 10th Anniversary Expedition to "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." This will be a great chance to congratulate Captain Moore and the crew, check out the research vessel, eat cake and celebrate!!! All you need to bring is enthusiasm, and comfortable shoes for walking on the dock. Try to arrive as early as possible!
Driving Directions to AMRF
Directions from southbound 405:
Click here to view the location in Google Maps
Hope to see you there!!!!!!
We are winding down to our last 48 hours on the ship. The air is too cold to sit outside for more than a couple of minutes especially since the sun hasn’t shown its face for more than a few minutes each day. Strange to think a week ago we were melting from the heat. Lindsey went for a walk around the ship and was back in less than a minute. Stiff legged and arms out like a scarecrow she was soaked from head to toe. That didn’t stop the captain who put on his swim shorts and headed to the bow to take on the ocean spray head on. The water is a refreshing 65 a shade warmer than the air.
We have been pinched between the Tropical Storm Olaf (sp) below us and Gale winds above us. The sky wants to rid itself of the stainless steal clouds, but it is a losing battle for most of the day. Tonight they loosened up enough to give us our last sunset. Tomorrow night we will be in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island which will block the view of our final sunset set at sea.
The wind is up and the seas are down to a four, perfect conditions to be traveling an average of nine knots without the restless baseball bats banging below. When I say the wind is up, I’m talking straight up. According to the captain these winds are going to take us all the way in.
By dawn we will be traveling right past Cortes Bank which is about 100 miles off the California shore. This exclusive location has attracted the attention of surfers from around the world. It is said that Cortes Bank has the potential of making 150 foot waves due to a deep canyon that has one wall that stretches to just six feet below the surface creating a reef effect for the waves to curl on. It doesn’t happen all the time, but given the perfect conditions, the surf is up like no other in the world. Surfline’s Sean Collins, crew and surfers waited 10 years for the conditions to be perfect for them to go out and surf there. On 11/26/02, the conditions were ripe and they arrived to find 60 foot waves. Because the captain had the video “Making the Call” from the event, we were able to see it with our own eyes. Unbelievable! Chances are, we won’t see this phenomenon, but from what the captain says, it is a great place to fish for tuna. I’ll keep you posted if either materializes!
Remember to keep Tuesday afternoon open to stop down the Algalita headquarters to view our North Pacific Gyre loot! (email email@example.com to find out the details)
Sunday, October 4, 2009
When the sky turns gray the vast ocean turns a dull shade of purple. Today it was purple all day. The sea state remains a treacherous six with the winds in the high 20s and the waves frothing at 10-12 foot peaks. The captain says they are trying to conform, but are still battling a confused state. We repeatedly see Everest-ridged waves whitecap then avalanche, cascading down near vertical slopes, leaving a temporary white stain in its trough. A sight I have yet to tire of. Sometimes the ship catches the wave in its throat causing the white froth to slam into our windshield. It reminds me of home in NY when the wind gets under a car hood full of snow and momentarily blanks the view. It’s a lot less scary on a boat!
The captain and Bill changed our sails again this morning, taking down the staysail and putting up the genoa jib. The reason why is because we are now catching the northerlies we’ve been desperately needing in order to connect to the north-westerlies that will get us to shore. Bill couldn’t dodge the froth that heaved over the bow, caught him in the back and nearly swept him off his feet. The 68 degree water, about the temperature of the air, felt even colder with the wind chill. The last time we changed the sails the captain had me working the winch table. I’d like to report that dyslexia translates well into the sailing world. I wittingly grabbed a sheet and it just happened to be the wrong sheet and didn’t go unnoticed by the captain. Darn dyslexia. The good news is we are now traveling at 10 knots and it’s looking up that we will port for the Tuesday afternoon welcome home. I’ll continue to keep you posted on the status.
Our on-board marine biologist Gwen Lattin received a special delivery today. A beautiful flying fish flew up on the bow in the night to volunteer itself to science. These fish are even more beautiful than I imagined. Even though I saw them when I was in the North Atlantic Gyre, out here I got to see one up close and personal.
Tonight’s dinner started last night with Jeff brining a plump chicken. It was ready this evening when Jeff plucked it out from the oven along with purple jams, and orange squash. Yep, we’re still eating fresh veggies with two days to the finish line. The captain slit the outrageously good jams in half then mashed them adding coconut sauce, it’s to die for!!!
We ended the night with a special treat. Jeff made homemade hot cocoa and then we shut off all the lights and with only a coalminer’s headlamp, the captain read us a short story from the book, The Bedtime Book of Sea Stories called “Three Skeleton Key” by George E. Toudouze. It doesn’t get much better than that!
More later, Bonnie
RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
Shawn, Thank you from all of us that you are spreading the word about Algalita's work. I have been lucky enough to go to the Garbage Patch to witness with my own eyes what Captain Moore has been seeing over the past 10 years. I will continue to bring peoples attention to the issue more than ever. Best to you, enjoy the beach for us. Best, Bonnie
Friday, October 2, 2009
Day 26 Friday 10/02/09
One of our favorite past-times (and there is a lot of time to pass) is watching albatrosses appear as if out of nowhere and escape our gaze the same way. Sometimes, albatross will adopt a ship to follow for a few hours. And, according to Carl Safina’s Book The Eye of the Albatross, an albatross followed a ship for 2,880 miles. Yesterday one came to visit while we were sitting out on the stern. We watched it as it appeared from the proverbial nowhere and headed straight for us. It's wings spread wide above the froth-tipped wake. We watched awe struck by the speed at which it came in without flapping its stealth shaped wings. I know I was personally hoping to have a pet bird for at least a day or two. But then it began to drop its landing gear, first one of its huge webbed feet and then the other as if walking on air. We started asking each other what we thought it was doing when it stopped moving toward us and hung suspended over a distinct distance from the boat. We then watched it dip its beak in the water, like dunking for apples. And then we knew what it was doing. We jumped to our feet and shouted, “No!” We had a fishing line out and the end of the line happened to be just below the albatross. Bill ran and grabbed the fishing pole and started reeling it in. The bird dove again. Bill reeled faster as I let out another “No.” The bird responded by flying up to the starboard side of the boat, preformed a few figure eights then went back to looking for the lure camouflaged hook. But it couldn’t be found, Bill had it all but reeled in. (phew) Fishing gear can catch birds as easily as they can fish so it was a good lesson in keeping an eye on our fishing lines. You never know when you’ll have a desperately hungry bird looking for a freebie.
We have quite the book exchange flying around here. Eye of the Albatross is a favorite , as well as Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. The captain and Jeff swapped them via careful lobs across the room. Lindsey’s been flopping between reading Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell and Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Person Myers. Personally, I think she’s having trouble getting through Julie and Julia, it does seem to be inspiring her to cook though. She’s had Adelle Davis’ 1947 recipe book out a few times. We aren’t complaining! Another way the books are getting around is by falling off the bookshelves. It didn’t start happening until we hit these really high seas and now it happens on a regular bases. You might say, move them. Some have been moved, the others (that keep falling) are because someone thinks they’ve devised a way to make them stay. We’re always devising ways to try to keep things where they belong. It’s an ongoing part of living on a boat. The farthest I’ve gone, personally, is clipping myself to the side of the boat to videotape under the behest of Jeff. And I’m glad I listened. Yesterday, I wasn’t out on the bow two seconds when a huge wave came and nearly knocked me off my feet soaking me from head to toe. With the shot I took, I got a good shot of one enormous beautiful wave.
Today the ocean is more uniform, but the sea state is a good seven. Sails have been up since Monday and it looks like we will be sailing all the way home getting in for our welcome home on Tuesday at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation office. We’ll keep you posted and all are welcome to stop by, say hi and check out our finds.
NOTE: If you are interested in joining the arrival celebration in Long Beach you can RSVP to Holly ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) and she will keep you up to date about the plan!
As of yesterday, we crossed over into another time zone - Pacific Standard Time - and are now only one hour behind California. The ocean continues to pound the bottom of the boat while rouge waves hit us from all sides. What to do? Make Jeffy Pop popcorn. Jeff is a maestro popcorn popper! (picture coming soon) He shakes the pot down while shimmying on his feet to maintain position in front of the stove. There is a whole lot more talent involved then it sounds. Here are a few positions I call “The Art of Staying Upright.” The tripod position is when I lean my forehead hard against the wall while drying off, putting lotion or a shirt. I use the back-stand to pull pants up, leaning the back against the wall provides excellent stability while both hands are working tight pants up and around (induced by all the delicious meals). The hip-hugger is a must while cooking. We all do this, lean our hips against the counter which allows both hands to be working. And then there is the bazooka shuffle used when the unforeseen force of a wave knocks us clear across the room in which case none of the above work. Jeff and the captain do it unconsciously graceful. The rest of us tend to fight it. Bill tried to fight it while doing dishes. He grabbed for the counter but his hands were wet, slipped off and down he went. A few times I tried to be cool and add a little leg dance to it which invariably led to Jeff asking, “Bonnie, what are you doing?” No more leg dance.
So after three days of trying to play my 20 minute game and not spotting one thing in the ocean, I finally asked the captain why. The obvious answer was the sea state, but in the gyre, we were still seeing stuff in pretty rough seas. The better answer came from a simulation presentation on how trash works its way around the North Pacific done by Dr. Jim Ingraham. Due to the California current, the current carries debris from the states south of our current position and sends it toward the Philippines via the Equatorial current. The trash from Japan area comes via the Kuroshio Extension to the Oyashio Current. So we are in an area that plastic pollution is not so apt to be spread around. The captain assured me we’ll be seeing trash from the States as we get closer to shore.
Since I’ve mentioned our wonderful students in the continental US and Canada, I would also like to thank the participation of students at George Washington High in Guam! Great to hear from you and all of you, keep the questions rolling!
RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
-Hello Jean, We have not felt any of the tsunami as we are out of its boundaries thank goodness. But we have had some rough seas that are unassociated. Unfortunately, we had the maximum sea state for doing our sampling so even though our ratios appear to be much higher. We would have been pleased if the ocean was as calm as it was during 1999. We feel the ratio would have been even higher. The rough seas drive a lot of debris down deeper into the water column.
With 600 more miles to go, we should be back to Long Beach, California by Tuesday we hope! Best, Bonnie
-Hey C A Logan, Thank you for your support to help bring awareness to this issue. Facebook is a great place to get the word out! I asked Captain Moore and his answer is we need chemists to design plastics that are non-toxic, and government policy, like Germany, that mandates a cradle to cradle systems. Also, we need to restructure our planned obsolescence/growth based economy to a Steady-State economy. (check out www.steadystater.org) Another need is to create an “Ultra-Walmart” consortium to steer people who want to purchase plastic free products - A warehouse of options at affordable prices. Those are just a few off the top of our heads. Thanks Logan and let us know if you come up with any. Bonnie
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Day 24 Wednesday 9/30/09
It’s been a bit maddening to have to stay inside only to watch an occasional monster wave come up over the bow, cruise past our cabin porthole windows, on up another three feet to the galley windows and portholes and then slosh beyond the top of the boat out over the stern. Not that the spectacle doesn’t provoke some oos and ahhhs, but three days of this and I am so ready to get out on the bow to, at the very least, get some really great footage. Getting wet is a small price to pay for great footage. Given that information, you can probably visualize a certain someone with a harness and life vest with a waterproof camera in hand hanging from the starboard side. I didn’t get very far when I was beaten back by the spray. The lens covered in salty drops, I decided to continue shooting from inside. My friends will understand why there are water spots. We’ve gone three weeks with the sea state changing nearly every day, but the last three have consistently been the same - hanging around six to seven. Even though it isn’t raining from the sky, it’s raining from the bow. So we have left the boundaries of the said Garbage Patch without giving it much more than a last glance.
So what do we do? Read, write, fish, and eat. And the people aboard this boat know how to eat! You’d want them on your Iron Chef team. (Not me, I’m more comfortable jumping off the mainsail boom than I am making oatmeal.) The captain’s homemade hot cocoa alone is example enough. The captain’s recipe calls for Abuelita (a bar of Mexican chocolate), Scharffen Berger 99% cacao dark chocolate, milk and garnished with a vanilla stick. Amazing. As far as the fishing goes, the captain caught two Mahi Mahi this morning using squid that volunteered themselves for bait by jumping up on the bow in the middle of the night.
I got an encouraging email from my fellow plastic pollution warrior, Jennifer O’Keefe. The items discussed in the video confirms much of what Algalita Marine Research Foundation has been conveying. Your assignment is to read the message below and then go to the link, watch the video and tell me what you think!
An online video focusing on the science and politics of ocean trash published by the DC Bureau of the Public Education Center (http://www.dcbureau.org/) has recently been posted, highlighting an interview with the Dr. Holly Bamford, Director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. The video and corresponding article, part of a series titled "Fish and Paint Chips," cover the issue of marine debris from a variety of different angles and interviews. The purpose of DCBureau.org is to provide bloggers, individual reporters, editors, news directors and others involved in all media platforms a new resource for stories, ideas and help. Recent research has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concerned that the huge quantities of metal, plastic, paint chips and other man-made debris floating at sea, hundreds and even thousands of miles from land, may be working their way into the American diet.
Now here are the links;
(NOAA Marine Debris Program highlighted in "Fish and Paint Chips" Series by DC Bureau.)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I’ve had a lot of students asking what kind of fish or sea animals do we see - Turtles? Sharks? Dolphins? Manatees? I did get to see some dolphins while scuba diving in Hawaii and saw several sea turtles while exploring Kamilo Bay with Noni and Ron Sanford, but not since then. We swam while dolphin fish, otherwise known as Mahi Mahi, circled below down too deep to photograph. One night, we decided to flash lights over the ocean looking for Myctophids. When light hits them just right, their oversized eyes reflect a florescent red and they’re glowing photophor studded bodies make them look like fireflies of the sea. What we didn’t realize is our lights gave a school of Mahi Mahi the home court advantage and we found ourselves witnessing a feeding frenzy. The little five inch or so long Myctophids, twisted and contorted, zoomed and darted like kids playing dodge ball. I saw one jump over the head of a three foot Mahi Mahi. There were flashing fish and flashing flashlights going in all directions. Next thing we saw were squid getting into or getting out of the way of this dog eat dog world. Blotches of ink plumed the blue lit water.
Since we are on our way back to California with seas ranging from 5 to 7, cruising at 10 plus knots, weaving in and out of squalls, we haven’t had a chance to see much of anything. But today the sky turned blue, the captain put a line out, Bill threw the compost out and Jeff reeled in a Mahi Mahi (see picture above.) It was close to 30 inches long! Gwen examines the digestive tract for plastics and then Jeff took over. We’ll have it for lunch tomorrow. Good stuff!
To keep myself busy I decided to finish a project I started involving a poster using the inside of a shopping bag. We have a group of students from River Ridge High School, Florida who take part in AMRF’s Ship-to-Shore Educational Program that Holly Gray facilitates. Thanks Holly, you’ve recruited a great group of kids from all over the country and Canada!!! Well River Ridge High has a group of students known as the Reef Rascals soon to change there name to SPLASH (Students Protecting Land and Sea Habitats) who are getting some press and they asked for a photo from the gang out here. This was a little dicey since we all needed to be in it and with the boat bounces around so much self portraits are tough. We decided to use my video camera. So we all got in position in front of the camera and then just stared at it like “now what.” Without a “cheese” or “smile” or someone to say “Ready?” it left us all hanging until the captain, being the director of operations, began to sing M.I.C. K.E.Y. M.O.U.S.E. This was the most coherent picture I could extract from the footage. Great footage though.
RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
Jason, Hey thanks for a good attempt at the answer. I’ll share it with the captain. And great to hear you’re spreading the word. You are going to love the new camera/underwater case! Tell Danielle, I’ve pulled out the hat and I love it. Best Bro! bon
Hey Barrelmaker, Thanks for sharing because there are many of us who have never seen this before. Amazing for sure to think they substituted shells for plastic since gosh knows they were not near a location to grab a shell or 10. Best, Bonnie
What is that strapped to the pallet? We wish we could have found out. Unfortunately, we were doing our last sample of the 10 year anniversary resampling and could not stop what we were doing to go get it. We all lament over not being able to find out. The way it was trapped down, it looked important! Best, Bonnie
Hi again Tim, Your idea is not a bag one and we’re confident it happens as you describe. The only thing is, we pulled out 20 buoys many from calm seas and none of them were fouled like what the captain has seen in the past. We’re hoping to hear from a biologist. If you know one . . . .Best, Bonnie
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Day 22 Monday 9/28/09
In the darkness of the morning, we completed our last trawl of the re-sampling surveys. Yet another large item caught in our trawl, a rope 16 cm long accompanied a large quantity of plastic particulates. There isn’t any fishing going on out here due to its oligotrophic state and yet we find fishing gear daily. A notable difference in the trawls of 2009 compared to trawls of 1999 is the number of large items caught in the manta trawl.
We pulled the manta in at 0500 and let the sails out at 0800 after battening down the hatches, securing our collected items from the sea, removing bathing suits from the line, and repositioning the last of our fresh fruits and vegetables. The sky was blue long enough for the genoa and main sails to bloat with fall cool air and pull us down a few miles toward home and into a perpetual squall. When we started we were 1035 nm away from Long Beach, California, but because of the 30 knot winds we’re making good time traveling 120 nm by 2000 on free fuel.
This is the first day that I have spent the entire time inside. The bad part was not being able to survey the ocean from the deck and collect plastic items. Yesterday the captain pulled in a crate that looked like it a grocery store bread crate. A perfect example of how we are finding things in one piece out here more than other areas of the Pacific we have surveyed. With the sea state pushing seven, water fanning over the bow as we careened 10 foot slopes, it was too dangerous. Sitting on the back deck had its own host of hazards. Water would sometimes hit us from behind and lap over the sides of the ship. Lindsey was sitting out on the aft with Jeff when we heard her let out a little yelp. A wave so powerful rocked the ship hard, knocking her off her seat. So they moved back into the galley where we sat all together sharing stories and sipped tea. It’s the first time since the voyage started that we have had little to do but to hang out.
The ship has its’ own way of communicating. It lets out blasts of noises from underneath with whining lines and jerking booms on top. I mentioned how I like to listen to sounds and name them. The captain laughed when I called one “the office” - it sounds like a slamming file cabinet drawer. Then there are the “after burner” noise that rocket out of the back. Like an oversize wave squished between the two pontoons, when it reaches the back of the ship it explodes its way free. There is also the “rollercoaster” noise that sounds like the chain pulling cars up a huge incline. The captain had one too, he calls the Mike Tyson punch. They’re all going off right now as we fishtail around across the other side of the Garbage Patch heading east via the north east tradewinds. More later, Bonnie
RESPONSE TO COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS
Hi Tim, Sorry it took a bit to get back to you. We just got off a sampling marathon over the last three days. The locations we just sampled for the 10 year anniversary were in the central pressure cell of the Garbage Patch - 35o North 140o West but to be honest with you we don’t know where the edges are to truly know the center of the GP. We did figure the nautical miles of the area to be 557,000 NM square. I have to tell you, from what I’ve seen with my own eyes, the plastic particulates are everywhere. But as we approached the GP central pressure cell, the number of larger items increased considerably. We will have to wait for the results from the trawls to determine if it is true for the particulates, but just a visual inspection by the captain it appears to be much higher. Sorry about the glass float. It was serendipitous that you had asked about the glass buoys the same day we tried to track one down. I will try to post a picture after we get back. I don’t have the software with me to do it. Let me know if this helps or if you have any questions. Best, Bonnie over the ocean
Hey my friend, I’m so looking forward to sharing my adventure with the ladies. Save a seat for me! thank you for following my blog and for helping get to where I am today - sailing at 11 knots 1035 miles away from port. Love ya sis, bon
Hi Dael, That makes you and the captain! I would have never guest. I thought it odd that there were wires hanging out of a toilet seat! Thanks for following it’s the only way to create change - grassroots (from the bottom up!) Best, Bonnie
Monday, September 28, 2009
Is this yours? I spied this from the galley window as it slid down a nine foot wave that dwarfed the size of this package. If you look closely, you can see it is strapped to a pallet which gives you an idea just how big it is. I’ve become keenly aware of debris floating after my 10 games of “How Long Can I Go without Seeing Plastic?” I had been outside most of the daylight hours even though a series of squalls kept me dodging for cover. One in particular, I watched as the silver veil of rain drew an exaggerated stiff line just after the horizon and then marched like locusts looming toward a cornfield (not that I’ve ever seen what that looks like.) I stood there for a good seven minutes watching it close in until I felt it on my face. Squalls rolled in and out throughout the day, but I was determined to stay out there in the cool damp air so that I could report my unscientific yet revealing results. I became so hyper-aware of the stuff that didn’t belong in the ocean that I couldn’t pass a window without looking out and shouting. “I see something!”
The 20 minute games took two people to play - one as an extra set of eyes to confirm the sightings and one to write down the time, dimensions, and color. We did not count anything we saw under an inch in size. After reviewing all 10 games, the longest we went without seeing a piece of plastic was . . . . . .7 minutes and 20 seconds. The average number of plastic pieces per 20 minutes was 15.9 pieces. The smallest pieces we saw were bottle caps (of which we saw a lot of and according to Big Sweep, bottle caps are the # 2 item found on the beach outside of cigarette butts.) The largest was a six foot trough with a rim like an old bathtub. One of the unique items was a blue man shaped bottle. Sorry Perry, it would have been a good one for you, but we couldn’t take anything out of the ocean because we were trawling.
Our trawls have been coming in with Texas-sized plastic fragments. Twice just today, we had to feed items back through the trawl because they were too big to fit through the codend. The captain said it was a rare occurrence to have large items end up in the trawls in previous years, it would happen, but very rarely. It has happened 9 out of the 11 trawls we’ve done for the re-sampling in the North Pacific Gyre. Items like a detergent bottle, a banana float, a handle and part of the top to a five gallon bucket, a good portion of a broken buoy, an Oral-B toothbrush, oyster spacers, and an umbrella handle just to name a few.
We have our 12th trawl tonight at 0130 and that will complete our 10 year anniversary re-sampling of the North Pacific Garbage Patch. We’ve had unusually rough seas throughout our sampling. The high pressure system that helps facilitate the accumulation has not been able to ward off the storms that have continued to hang around. The sea state has waned between four and six. These conditions usually don’t provide the best representation due to the fact that rough seas submerge many of the plastics. Yet, the captain and Gwen feel the quantities we are getting will surpass the samples of 1999. More later, Bonnie
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Day 20 Saturday 9/26/09
Oh Buoy! A day doesn’t go by that we don’t see several plastic buoys and rope roll past the ship. Today was no exception. But a morning reflection about the 1999 voyage got the captain talking about his general observation of not only the mere number of buoys we are seeing since his 1999 voyage, but the changes he’s observed this time more so than any of the previous voyages. The change has been in the number of barnacles he is NOT seeing on the buoys and the amount of algae that is on them instead. The number in buoy count doesn’t surprise us. With the amount of fishing competing in our deep waters, commercial vessels that are floating factories able to go to far reaches of the ocean bringing with them fishing gear that local fisheries can’t afford to lose. What he doesn’t know the answer to is where are the barnacles going?
To further his point, the captain sat us down and showed us slide after slide of fouled buoys with strands of barnacles like this one that are several feet long. We haven’t found anything even close to the examples he showed us - a time lapse up until the winter of 2008. And it wasn’t just the buoys, bottles too! We haven’t found one fouled bottle with barnacles and we have a repository of bottles. Is it a natural occurrence that their abundance reduces during certain seasons? Are they knocked off in rough seas? We’re a curious bunch way out here 1050 miles from Google and we’d like to use one of our life lines and phone a friend. Anyone?
Day two of our re-sampling brought in a collectors item. The captain has been collecting umbrella handles over the past 2 or 3 years. His collection has grown to a whopping 50 +. All of them have come from various beaches, but most of them have come from Kamilo Bay, Hawaii. Today was a first. While emptying the codend of the manta trawl at 0400, out plopped an odd shaped, dark brown umbrella handle, along with half of a flex-handle tooth brush, two bottle caps, and two oyster spacers. The captain is confident the tooth brush and umbrella are from land-based sources because it’s futile to bring an umbrella out at sea and there are too many uses for a toothbrush on a boat. The other interesting finds with these trawls is that there have been a higher concentration of identifiable objects as well as items too big to put in our sample jars. That is not to say that there aren’t a lot of plastic particulates and loads of them. Other odd finds today were a children’s toy cup (olive green/Tupperware?), Popsicle stick, and a travel size detergent bottle.
I have a new game, it’s called, “How long can I go without seeing plastic” I’ll share with you more about it tomorrow. My goal is to have played it 10 times before I reveal my average.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Day 19 Friday September 25, 2009
Today we reached our destination into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and began our 10 year anniversary sampling. The day started with a sea state of two/three which was doable for sampling. At 1155 the captain came over the loadspeaker announcing this monumental event and then had us hustle to the stern. Under gray skies and comfortable seas, the manta trawls went into the water at 1205 for an one hour and five minute swim.
Shortly after the manta launch, Gwen noticed a Japanese glass float drifting by. It was a gorgeous emerald green (not a color one sees a lot of out here, not even in plastic.) It looked to be about the size of a volleyball. These are a rare find and worth chasing after. Within minutes Jeff and Lindsey were heading off in the dinghy to find it with a hand held radio and GPS in hand. Within minutes they were completely out of sight and with every minute the sea state started to turn advancing to a sea state of four and looked like a giant washing machine on the "heavily soiled" wash cycle. It was a long 25 minutes before we could see them in the distance bouncing toward us. The emerald glass buoy lost its luster as the minutes passed. So when they returned without it, no one seemed to care.
The ocean has not calmed down since early afternoon and has progressed to a sea state of five. With 6-8 foot swells, 19 knot winds combined with the ship going at 6.5 knots, it’s much like driving fast down a hilly road. Sometimes the car catches some air and you can feel it in your stomach. My stomach has been flying around all day - one perpetual rollercoaster. Sometimes when we bounce low, water washes over the bow, up over my bed’s porthole window, rips passed the hatch and then back down again. It’s such a trip bouncing around in this capsule as the ocean does its thing out there.
Jeff’s dad has emailed a list of questions and I decided to incorporate them since there might be a few others who have similar questions. Now these are some questions in need of some answers.
1. Will you begin surveying Friday 9/25/09? Yes, we started at 1205 today at the coordinates set from the 1999 survey. The sea state was about a two at the time, but has jumped up to a five due to some squalls that seem to be following us.
2. How many days will you need to complete the survey? We are looking at four days to complete the 12 stations, but it is weather dependent. The forecast does look in our favor after today.
3. Are the winds still giving you free power or are you motor sailing? It’s been very patchy with the wind. We sailed three nights ago, but took them down in the morning. Charlie and I put up the Stay Sail yesterday at 0500, then put up the main at 0900 and then took them down in the late afternoon. With the tight survey schedule, we’ve been motoring at about 6.5 knots which is eating up some fuel. We did get to sail for a few hours while we trawled our first repeat sample survey though! But to truly answer your question, most of our sailing has been accompanied with a motor. Except for Tuesday night it was beautiful to sail through the silence of the night.
4. Your position report said you were back down to 33 degrees north. Is that a typo or did you swing south? Yes, we did some jockeying around trying to hit some algal bloom patches that Dave Foley had asked us to try to survey.
5. The January 2008 crossing from Hawaii was a little dicey regarding fuel consumption. How are you doing with your fuel consumption? Our fuel situation is still looking good, but being in the dull drums and having to hit locations at certain times may have us riding home on fumes.
6. I am getting the impression that the ORV Alguita is finding more trash with every mile over previous voyages. Is this the case? Today, I videoed the captain as he gave us his impression of this voyage, and he said this is nothing like what he witnessed in 1999, it is far worse. For one reason, every time we stop for a swim (and one time while we were in transit) our props and/or the ruder are fouled with derelict fishing/boating gear. Just this morning, the captain went under the boat after we retrieved a 3’x18”buoy, and found both props had rope around them. This was the second day in a row! Also, Jeff had to go under the boat two nights ago because the engine died and it was because of a huge ghost net. The captain fears that this area is becoming a navigational nightmare. Here’s another example, every time we put our fishing polls out, if they are out for more than an hour, one of them brings in a wad of rope. Another thing that is really concerning the captain is the quantity of stuff we are seeing float by. The trawls have been heavy with plastic, but to truly determine if it is more, we have to get the samples back to the lab.
7. Do you see evidence that the plastic pollution has increased in density on a per day at sea basis? I asked your son this question and he felt that the plastics are so patchy, it is difficult to say. I asked the same question to the captain and since he has been looking at this for 10 years, he felt that over the past 10 years this is the worst he’s seen it. Thanks Chief, keep’em coming.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Day 18 Wednesday 9/24/09
I got “schooled” on anemones today. As sad as it may sound, I knew nothing of them other than what I saw in the animation “Finding Nemo.” With my childlike preoccupation, Jeff had to ask, “Haven’t you ever been in a tide pool before?” And then urged I go spend some time in one. You may wonder how the topic of anemones came up while out in the deep ocean, 100s, if not a 1000, miles from any tide pools or reef lines where anemones live. It has to do with yet another game I made up while trying to quantify or if nothing else, wrap my head around all this plastic I see daily floating by in all different shapes and sizes. Since the sea state was a two, it was good enough to get out on the bow and start hunting for plastics.
I made a hand drawn spreadsheet with categories of: color, item description, and then a series of columns for size increments i.e. 0-1 cm, 2-10 cm, and so forth. We started exactly at 1400 and intended to go for 30 minutes. Bill shouted out what he saw; I would write it down. Occasionally, he would try to pull them out. To keep it simple, we only counted and collected from the starboard side. If it were a competition between the white fragments and any other color/size, white fragments 0-1 cm would win hands down. With only nine minutes to go the captain pointed to a white piece roughly 3x5 inches small. Bill scooped it out of the water and when I pulled it out of the net, the white piece of plastic was covered with anemones which were covered with plastic. The captain was equally taken aback. An array of plastic particulates stuck to the anemones with a duck tape grip on the front and back of the plastic piece. Here we were with a total of 98 pieces that we counted in 26 minutes and this one piece of plastic looked to have an equal amount. So after a photo shoot, I started counting the number of pieces on each clumped mat of anemones. There were 14 clumps with a total of 131 pieces of plastic particulates attached to them, all clinging to a larger piece of plastic - 132!
Jeff told me that these critters cover themselves with rocks and shells to protect their soft jelly tissue against predators or from being scrubbed against rocky surfaces near shore. I found a book that described yet another detail, it said, “To prevent the fatal loss of water from body tissues during low tide, they [anemones] retract their tentacles and cover themselves with light-colored rocks and shells that tend to reflect, rather than absorb heat. Studies have shown that anemones have trouble maintaining fluids above 55 F. Gwen explained that the anemones use nematocysts as a way of attaching plastic to themselves and also added that they could be trying to feed on it, as well. So it was plastic that swept them out to sea and it was plastic in the ocean environment they found to cover themselves with.
Speaking of feeding, the captain treated us to yet another fanciful meal - a Chinese dish of Sweet and Sour Mahi Mahi - a 30” Mahi Mahi he and Bill wrestled in at 0900 this morning. Just in time before the seas jumped to a three and rock and rolled us until noon. The sails have been going up and down the past two days, but with less than 60 miles to the Garbage Patch, we’ll try anything to get there before our first scheduled 10 year anniversary trawl tomorrow at 1600.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Day 17 Wednesday 9/23/09
The moment my shift ended the clock had to be moved one hour forward leaving Bill with only one hour on watch. Our easterly travels led us into a different time zone. Not only has the clock moved fast forward but so has the volume of plastic pollution we are finding. We are 220 nm outside of the first sample sight inside the Garbage Patch and from what we’ve seen today, one has to wonder if the leviathan patch is growing at an alarming rate. Windrow after windrow of plastics strung across the water like strings of Christmas lights. Spaced just so far apart, the plastics rarely travel in tight packs, but in these conditions they’re strung along invisible lines. I know, we need to send a picture. It isn’t trivial to take a picture of this, but Jeff vows to get one that will illustrate just what we’re seeing. None of us have the equipment it will take to get a good shot, especially when it has to be reduced to 20 percent to send it from here. But we’re going to try.
Just from the port side this morning, I caught 13 good size objects within an hour and a half. That doesn’t include the stuff I missed and those just outside my reach (I counted 139 total). The smallest was a travel size aspirin bottle and my largest was . . .I’ll get to that later. First I want to tell you about the captain’s big find that rivaled mine. Yes, another 55 gallon drum with a square window cut out of the side of it (photo to left by Gwen Lattin) . Lindsey, Jeff, the captain and I snorkeled out to it to see what might be swimming under it. It was pretty barren compared to the last one that had tiers of fish teaming beneath it. After lugging it on board, the window worked well for the captain to catch the fish that swam inside.
The captain also caught a Mai Mai! Gwen preformed a necropsy and found a nice square piece of yellow plastic in its digestive system. Bill caught it all on video for the non-believers and a picture is being sent to AMRF if anyone wants to see it. It’s a bit gruesome for the blog. Gwen is also taking samples on fish that are associated with the plastics like a few that lived in the barrel. They will be analyzed for Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) when we return to the mainland.
We also collected two “super-size me” trawls. We rarely collect big items in our trawls, but today was an exception. Both the manta trawl and the folding manta had several large objects like a foot long wad of rope, roughly 4”x4” pieces of broken fragments, bottle caps, and one even had the entire bottle! The captain said these samples rival the most he’d ever seen in one trawl. It makes me fearful what it’s going to be like in the patch!
Now for my catch of the day - On the bow I made a little game for myself, to collect 10 things in an hour. (Remember my fiasco with the two corner piece. I was out to redeem myself.) Well I got stuck on number nine. There was a dry spell, not atypical of how plastic comes and goes in waves. I called on the ocean gods to send me something big and something soon because time was running out. It must have heard because it arrived shortly after. When I pulled it out, I thought to myself I'm glad the ocean has a sense of humor (see top photo by Jeff Ernst). The captain loved the find and proclaimed it to be one of the most unusual items pulled aboard Alguita! He explained to me that this particular seat is a Japanese invention. The seat is actually wired to serve as both a toilet seat and a bidet.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Day 16 Tuesday 9/22/09
Today is yet another travel day. It’s hard to believe that the latitudinal line we started from stretched across the Pacific and slid beneath the Baja Peninsula, nearly 1000 miles down from the US/Mexican border. The ocean temperature had been in the high seventies/low eighties, the air hot and slightly breezy. Over the past 1,440 nautical miles we’ve felt the hot air fade away as the winds picked up and the water cooled. Most of us are wearing long sleeves and pants. Jeff sports a cap when it gets below 80.o I’ll be breaking mine out that Danielle Andre made for me just before the cruise. Thanks Danielle, I’m going to need it! After we leave the Garbage Patch it’s going to be much cooler as we head back to Long Beach, California.
We have 414 more nautical miles to go to begin our sampling in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We should be there in two days allowing us to start sampling on Friday September 26th. We will be re-sampling the precise locations AMRF sampled 10 years ago that led to Captain Moore’s first publication on plastic pollution. The sampling will take three solid days or more depending on conditions. The captain explained that it should be warmer in the Garbage Patch as the winds will die down along with the sea state due to this area typically being monopolized by a high pressure system. We look forward to getting back in the water to video and take some stills underwater as well as what we find on the surface.
In the meantime, the captain continues to entertain us with crazy awesome connoisseur concoctions. We had homemade limeade with lunch and since he was cleaning out the fridge, he decided to make smoothies out of random fruits on the verge of going to the dark-side. He added some soymilk for good measure and BAM, it shamed Smoothie King. Tonight he’s preparing Chicken Mole which I guess is chicken with a chocolate sauce along with a side of sweet candied squash dusted with cinnamon. I never had it, but he hasn’t let me down yet!
Since we are catching some perfect winds at 16 knots over a sea state of four, we don’t have the ability to maneuver to pick up plastics that float by so we’ve been counting. Just in buoys today alone, Jeff has seen a dozen and Gwen five. As I was asking her how many she counted she looked over my shoulder and said, “There’s one now!” And sure enough, there was a black one floating by our ship. I’m a neophyte yet and have only counted seven floating by in two days. Bill, the captain, and Lindsey say they lost count. On board, we’ve collected 17 so far. We could make our own totem pole of buoys with the number we have seen. Not that these are the only things we see out here, 100s of random things float by daily and that is just what we see.
“Corners,” I said in a trance-like state as I stared at the white corner of a crate or something similar that floated by. We see a lot of corners of objects. We guess it’s because corners are likely to be sturdier than the other parts. The captain pulled one out yesterday and entered on our data sheet along with many others that we’ve collected. Two days ago, I had a huge piece with two corners intact making a “U” shape. We were traveling at about five knots so when it came rapidly floating toward me, I squared myself to the bow. I concentrated on my timing watching it as it decided to float on the starboard side. It was coming around the pontoon when I made my move. Half of it went into the net, the other have wrapped around the pontoon - clung to it like a child around its mother’s leg. It was ridiculous. I had the net on one end of it, but was afraid to pull for fear it would go down the other side of the pontoon. I yelled to Bill who was filming at the time to come help. Just as he got there, it let go. I clawed at it as it floated past me and on it went. I hung my head. “Don’t worry,” Bill said, “there’ll be plenty more opportunities.”
RESPONSES TO COMMENTS
-Tim, We appreciate any attention you can draw to this issue and love the theme!!! Algalita appreciates the attention too. I bet those surfboards looked amazing! How cool of you to hand out the brochures- donations would be great. We lost our spinnaker the other night and not sure if it can be mended-we're all sick about it. We will be keeping a close eye out for bags and will let you know if we see any as well as collect them if we can. Best to you Tim and thanks again from the middle of the ocean, Bonnie
-Trina, You are welcome and keep sailing with us, we promise there will be a lot more pictures in store. Best, Bonnie
-Hi Kizzy in Canada, so glad you stumbled on our blog. You can contribute too by letting people know about the issue of marine debris and the great work that Captain Moore is doing on behalf of our oceans. Algalita Marine Research Foundation is a small group of volunteers and people committed to this issue so any kudos they receive is a huge reward. Best to you and come along with us for the rest of our journey blog style. Best, Bonnie
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Day 15 Monday 9/21/09
At the stroke of midnight last night, Lindsey was finishing up her 2200 to 2400 watch when all halyard broke loose. Actually, it was the spinnaker. Lindsey ran to Jeff’s berth, but he was already on it. He knew what it was just by the sound. “The sail tore!” The three of us in the other cabin were aroused by the commotion and the captain confirmed the urgency by chiming a bell. While Gwen took the helm, we all clambered in different directions grabbing clothes and slipping on life jackets then pressed on into the cool night air. The wind howled just like in the movies. The captain, Bill and I worked the lines down from the winch table on the aft while Lindsey and Jeff finished pulling the remains of the spinnaker on to the bow. The captain, Bill and I worked our way to the bow to find Lindsey and Jeff sitting on the spinnaker so it wouldn’t take off into the 30 knot winds. While Bill collected the lines from around the sides of the ship, I unlatched the head of the sail and secured the spinnaker halyard. I then took Jeff’s place so he could finish bringing in the lines. The boat rocked over large swells and dipped into cavernous water trenches. Water slammed from all directions in a confused state as the spinnaker laid wounded on the bow The beautiful and enormous sail that has carried us 300 miles just on the last run, blew out on one side and tore a 30’ hole down one side. We all worked in tandem to get the Main and the Stay Sails up and by 1 a.m. the drama was over.
We’ve average 8.5 knots since changing the sails. Alguita climbs over and rips through some 10’ plus swells without hesitation. The ocean sounds angry beneath us as if challenging the unfettered stability of this catamaran. The bumping and banging take turns every few seconds, some sounding like a Giant trying to fist holes in the bottom. Most the time we can block out the sounds, but the punchy ones usually get this novice sailor’s attention.
Inside the ship everything expresses itself. The dishes clank, the spices rattle, hanging towels pendulum, while the water bangs below. Even the sink has something to say, it gurgles and sometimes geysers. Lindsey laughed straight out loud the first time she saw it. A foot and a half geyser shot straight up out of the drain then straight back down. I didn’t dare tell her how I found out it did that. I discovered this unique phenomenon while standing over the sink. Later the captain said it was mostly sea water since the drain connects directly to the sea. It made me feel a little better than thinking last nights dishwater ended up on my face.
Traveling this fast via wind has such a different sensation. It’s like front wheel drive instead of rear wheel with the engines. The cat seems to flatten out over the water better. Even though we are traveling this fast, the squall that has been tailing us finally took the lead creating some fussy winds that forced us to add the genoa. Jeff, Lindsey and the captain managed to “get’er done,” while I videoed. Nice work crew!
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Q: If you could talk to elected officials about plastic pollution... what would
you say? -j
A: Hi Jennifer, Nice question, it generated a lot of conversation this morning with the captain. After talking a lot about people who have gone the legislative route and have been sorely disappointed, he didn’t hold out much hope for legislative action. He did say that there has been some headway in California with the “Leach Law” meaning bottle caps have to have a leach connecting them to the plastic rim around the spout. We need to keep being creative like this in presenting new ways to reduce the amount of trash on the ground and eventually out at sea. The long term answer is a Steady-State Economy System, not one based on a Grwth Economy System. This means we only produce what we need and reuse what we have. I miss you J and keep talking to me. Thanks for getting the video to BIOS. Any word from Maureen? Best, Bon
-Hi Dave Cooper, This is Bonnie the Blogger and Charlie and Jeff are happy to from you. (and Vince too) Bill Cooper, from UC Irvine says to say hello to a fellow barrel-maker and the rest of us always enjoy hearing from well- wishers. Keep sailing along with us. Best, Bonnie
Monday, September 21, 2009
Day 14 Sunday 9/20/09
I finally got the rest of the story about the Explorer’s club flag. The Explorers Club started in 1905 and is a prestigious group to belong to with such members as Thor Heyerdahl, Don Walsh, and Sylvia Earl. In order to be a member you had to have two sponsors. Charlie was approached by Don Walsh to consider becoming a member when Charlie took a ship-of-opportunity with the Explorers Club cruise to Japan in 2004. Charlie went on the ship so that he could study the plastic accumulation in Japanese waters. While collecting data, Don Walsh, who was on the cruise, became very interested in what Charlie was doing and asked that he present his research to the Explorers Club members that were on the ship. Don Walsh offered to sponsor him and shortly after Sylvia Earl became the other sponsor. After filling out an application to carry their flag on his next expedition, Charlie received a letter stating he was selected. Charlie chose to carry Flag # 134 because of the unique history it had. This same flag in the picture was carried in 1948 in the 3rd Danish Central Asia Expedition, the 1987 Yangtze River Expedition by Joel S. Fogel, and the 1998 Illi Tiki Explorations Manteno Voyage by John Haslett. Other Explorers Club flags have gone on the Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 flights. It is an honor to have been selected to carry the flag and well deserved I might add. To learn more about the Explorers Club go to http://www.explorers.org/
Let's talk about the weather. I never knew that stars could be bright enough to cast a reflection across the ocean water given it was dark enough. I witnessed this around 3am Friday morning. With the moon cycle near complete, the stars reigned. At first I thought maybe it was an airplane headlamp coming straight toward our starboard side, but then I noticed another one on our port side. I couldn’t believe how low the stars hung and yet a few so bright as to leave a string of pearl lights caught on tips of waves that pointed to Alguita. That would not be the case Saturday nor this morning... Our five day run of sunshine and calm, windless weather ended yesterday morning. The clouds had worked they’re way across the tapestry of stars, making it a black, moonless early morn.
According to the captain, we have a low coming out from Siberia that is heading toward the Gulf of Alaska. We are sailing on the rim of this system which has produced some nice free energy. We’ve been averaging about 8 knots an hour since yesterday at 1000. We’ve traveled 260.7 shortly after I came on my 1600-1800 watch. As of 1630 today, we had another 708 miles to go to get to our first waypoint in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We are nestled between the low and the high convergence zone so we can see it raining off our port side, but we haven’t got but a few drops of rain. It’s such a great ride.
We were traveling twice as fast last night and with a sea state of five, we were catching some air. Well I was anyway. My berth is a top bunk (see picture), closest to the bow starboard side and when I laid down last night my head literally levitated off pillow. With my muscle relaxed, I feel my body moving around effortlessly to the rhythm of the ship. Not that I’m going to fall out of bed, but the motion is like being on a water bed with a couple of small children jumping on it. Along with the boat being pushed around by waves and wind, the speed bumps were more like car wrecks. I laid here wondering how this boat could take such repeated pounding. I might have been thinking about it too much last night.
Because we’re in transit, not a lot of collection going on. We’re moving too fast, not to mention we are several days behind schedule and will not be getting back until October 1 at the earliest. With the captain not tending to sampling, he’s been cooking up a storm. Last night we had oven roasted lamb with purple sweet potatoes, and to top it off we had cheese cake for dessert. Tonight, he put together an Indian dish, which included his own curry, rice, lentils and fried bananas. Bill called it ”Charlie’s spice bazaar in the middle of the Pacific.” With all the great food we’ve been enjoying, Lindsey is missing her running and before dinner she did laps around the boat - 23 of them!