Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 6- First manta trawl!

Noon position: 24°52'40.80"N 128° 9'57.60"W

It’s Day six and we are officially 2/5 of the way to Hawai’i. Day six has been a day of firsts-- the first plastic trawl of the trip, our first fish catch (a Mahi Mahi!) and the first day of seriously tending to the “vessel garden” (aka sifting through the funky produce).

Let’s start with the trawls. While the winds have been against us in terms of maintaining our original course, they have put us in an area of the Pacific which had never been sampled……until today! See the map below or Click here, to view more maps of our previous sampling areas. We deployed the first Manta trawl, a device that captures surface debris in a fine mesh net, at 9am. This process was akin to riding a bike for the Captain and veteran crew Drew, Joel and Jeff, and a learning experience for the newbies (Christiana and myself).

After an hour of towing the trawl we pulled it in to find a strikingly low amount of plastic. Among the plastic identified was some line, a few hard plastic fragments, and a piece of a clear plastic label on which we could decipher the letter “d”. Among the life identified in the sample was a button valella, some copepods, a juvenile Pacific saury, and tiny gastropods with gorgeous purple shells. (See image of sample at top.)

The evening brought on trawl number two. This trawl gave us the opportunity to experiment with a tethered underwater camera, which Joel was able to rig to record the underwater flow into the Manta trawl. This was a significant in that it confirmed the integrity of our surface sampling methods. We ran the evening trawl for an hour as well, finding results similar to the morning trawl--very little plastic.

Obviously the low quantity of plastic present in samples is good news, but it does highlight a key point. Throughout fifteen years of sampling, we have yet to bring in a trawl completely void of plastic. While standing on the foredeck today, the Captain was able to identify plastic fragments flowing past the vessel. We also spotted some larger debris, a 5 gallon bucket which managed to evade our collection efforts. The point is, even in this new sample area in which our trawls our producing comparatively low amounts of plastic-there is still enough debris present for us to visually register and in our trawls. The relatively low amount of plastic also points to the possible delineation of the boundaries of an accumulation zone, although it is far too early in the data collection process to make any definitive conclusions. Joel noted that during the JUNKraft expedition last summer he and Marcus Eriksen noted a similar trend in abrupt transitions in plastic accumulation as they skirted the south edge of the accumulation area.

On to the adventures in gardening. In between trawls, the day was spent sifting through crates full of greens. To avoid wasting limited food we look for the food about to spoil and eat it first. The parsley was getting ready to turn, so we whipped up tabouli salad (using quinoa instead of bulgur wheat). We also found our beets nearing the tipping point, so the evening has been spent boiling and prepping the beets for pickling or easy snacking. Our greens are on the fritz as well….looks like we’re in for several days of green salad.

And finally, after five days of rigging fishing poles and hand lines, we had our first catch. Christiana kept the liver and other organs and tissue for future analysis.

The wind is starting to cooperate and blow more towards the west. We have taken down the stays’l which is used to sail close to the wind and put up the genoa which is flown when the wind is more a beam. We now are able to make good on a course of 245 degrees to our sampling area south of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Every mile sailed is a mile closer to Hawai’i. If our luck continues the wind will build and tomorrow we will fly the spinnaker!

Best wishes from the Capt. and Crew


Anonymous said...

Tim Touve Surfrider: I think the blog is really interesting. I have notified a lot of people to look at it. We have a surfrider meeting tomorrow night, and you guys will be on the agenda. May the winds blow in your favor.

srchief said...

Thanks for the noon posits. I plot them on Google Earth and it seems to make Jeff's Mom feel better to know where you guys actually are on the ocean. Glad to see you getting into the swing of being at sea. Look forward to hearing and seeing what you find.

Theresa White said...

Just joined your blog and quickly caught up on what you have been doing over the last seven days. Natracare( are supporters of The Algalita Marine Research Foundation and applaud what you do, as we too are opposed to plastic pollution and the environmetal effects its manufacture and disposal has on our planet. For the last 20 years Susie the owner and founder of Natracare has been working tirelessly to educate women about the plastic content in feminine hygiene and the effects its disposal has and designed and manufacturerd a plastic free alternative made from plant based materials from sustainable resources.
I am excited to be able to follow your work via your blog and I would like to thank you all for helping to protect our oceans.