Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 19

Noon Position 34°45'35.10"N, 142° 2'49.56"W

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.
More later.


Anonymous said...

I think this is exciting...
Tim - Surfrider

DriftingSon said...

"While the existence of a continuous island of plastic visible from space is a myth, there is an area of ocean larger that the continental US that contains an astounding and ever increasing amount of plastic debris that is swirling around in the North Central Pacific Ocean. Captain Charles Moore has been studying this phenomenon since 1999 and is currently in the midst of an expedition to resample the original coordinates of the first expedition of his catamaran, the ORV Alguita..." read more...