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.