Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 23

Noon Position 32°32'47.70"N, 135°57'23.52"W
Day 23 Tuesday 9/29/09
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

Noon Coordinates 35°12'19.92"N, 138°24'39.84"W

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

Day 21

Noon Position 30° 0'31.50"N, 140° 6'2.46"W
Day 21 Sunday 9/27/09
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 - Oh Buoy!

Noon Position 33°29'47.58"N, 141° 0'2.58"W

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.

More later.

Bonnie

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.
Bonnie

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 18

Noon Position 31°54'51.46"N, 144°31'35.82"W

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.

More Later,
Bonnie

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 17

Noon Position 33°48'20.22"N, 146°56'6.06"W

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.

More later.
Bonnie

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 16




Noon Position 33 41.703N 149 36.926W

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.”

More later.
Bonnie

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

Noon Position 33°37'42.84"N, 152°28'43.80"W

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!
More later.
Bonne

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

Noon Position 33°37'5.94"N, 155°48'44.52"W

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!

More later.
Bonnie

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 12

Noon Coordinates 32°14'12.18"N, 159°24'5.82"W
Day 12 Friday 9/18/09
Yesterday I left you hanging with a picture of all of us, but Jeff, (sorry Jeff) holding up a flag as the seaplane went by. It was a pretty amazing feat to get the picture, but we did it. The flag is an interesting piece to our voyage and I really want to do it justice. It is from the Explorers Club and Captain Moore earned the honor of having it with us on this voyage. The plan was to sit him down and get an interview both about the significance of the flag and how he came to being honored with one. Well, as it happens out here 700 miles from Hawaii and even further from any continent, nothing is planned and everything is subject to change. And due to the happenstance of today I’ll have to get back to you about the flag.

It all started just after my watch and the sun had a few inches above the horizon when I noticed a large piece of debris float by. Within minutes, there was yet another. And then I noticed the Captain pulling in the largest buoys we’ve seen this far. I went to the bow with my net to see if I could catch some of the plastic particulates that were floating by. After catching a few, I could see a stream of plastic particulates much larger than I had been seeing from the bow before off the port side of the ship. Here are just a few of the items: a milk jug ring, a piece of a black plastic bag, a yellow rope, large round chunk of Styrofoam, a buoy, a white plastic rim to something much larger, and a gray tube that I actually caught, but it was to big for my net and fell out along with all the pieces I had collected. All my collection went back into the ocean. I was so bummed, I decided to go back to bed.

What I was seeing is called a windrow and with the sea state being a one, the wind and current created convergent and divergent zones. The plastic would come in waves literally. Where there was a convergence zone, there would be a row of plastics. Where there was a divergence zone, there would not be any. This explains why I was seeing these rows of plastics. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like a conveyor belt of mass quantities of plastics, but it was visibly noticeable where these windrows were because of the rows of plastics that were floating past the bow.

So while I was napping, the crew was out on the deck having a field day with all the stuff they were collecting. I could hear them outside my hatch window every other minute yelling, “Look over here. . . .here’s one . . . hand me the net.” About an hour past when they all came running in to get their bathing suits on. Lindsey came in to tell me Jeff spotted one of the largest ghost nets the Captain had ever seen. We dove in and there were literally hundreds of fish swimming in it, around it, and under it. It was beautiful seeing them dashing around.

Two gray chubs came right up to me like Walmart greeters as I swam toward the ghostnet. One was flashing his tail in my mask and the other started nibbling on my mask. I tried to swim away but they followed me where ever I went. I felt like Ursula with her two eels swimming at her side. The feisty one nibbled on my neck. I had to pop my head out of the water to get him to back off.

The fun ended after about an hour when we pulled it out of the water and the captain started chopping it up so we could find a place to store it. We could really see just how huge it was on the deck. The captain guessed it to weight between 150-200 lbs. Now that’s the catch of the day.

More later.

Bonnie



RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
Kim, Hey, happy belated birthday! And thank you so much for following the blog. It’s been a chance of a lifetime and what a great way to share the adventure and bring awareness to a huge problem all at the same time. Hugs to Mark and the kids. Keep reading and throw a question my way if you have any. Love, Aunt Bonnie

How nice of you to honor the blog Linda. We’ll have to check out your post when we get back since no internet other than email. Tell Joel we said hi. He’s a great guy. You should be proud.

Gosh you’re a good guesser. Thanks James we’re hang in there!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 11- The Visit

Noon Coordinates 30°47'42.00"N, 158°41'3.12"W

Day 11 Thursday 9/17/09 The Visit

We had a little problem this morning while making freshwater out of saltwater and I was in the middle of it. It’s called desalinated water and I have to admit, you can’t tell. In fact, it’s good. The problem wasn’t the water, it was me. When Gwen left me on duty she told me we were making water and to keep an eye on it. We were trying to get both the port and the starboard tanks full before all 12 guests arrived. I checked it every 15 minutes. At about 0515 I knew they were full, but didn’t know exactly how to turn it off. I went down in the engine room and stared at all the controls, but nothing made any sense so I woke up the next person scheduled to be on watch. He told me not to worry about it and that the captain would be up to take care of it. My gut was saying go wake the captain, but my head was saying, let him sleep, he was up from 0200-0400. I should have listened to my gut. The tank overfilled. Not a way to start the morning. After getting the water situation under control, the captain went out on the dinghy looking for plastic accumulation areas. He was gone a long time and when he came back, he had a boat load full of stuff. There was barely room for him in to sit.

So back to the guests. The GreenLandOceanBlue film crew attempted to interview Captain Moore while out in the North Pacific Gyre today. Michael Prickett, the producer, scheduled the meeting to take place more than 550 miles off Hawaii’s shores via a Billabong owned seaplane. The captain changed into his uniform shortly after we got the call from the plane saying they were minutes away. I grabbed my waterproof camera jumped into the dinghy with Jeff and we rode off to find a good front row seat to film the seaplane coming in.

We could hear it before we could see it and then it busted through a small patch of clouds and headed right toward us. It’s a crazy moment being in the middle of the ocean on a little dinghy with a double prop seaplane heading right at you. The pilot zoomed over our heads then passed low in front of the ORV Alguita. The Surfrider, AMRF, and Pro Esteros flags that the Captain and Bill put out waved over the bow. The ship looked great from a distance especially since I hadn’t been off of it except to swim. Jeff carted me around like Miss Daisy as the plane tried to land in a few different places. But after one attempt that caused the seaplane to bounce three times across the water before it found air and speed to climb back up, they aborted the mission. The pilot came over the radio saying they were unable to land due to the confused nature of seas producing large swells with only five knot winds. The captain said he understood and saw the rough ride they had with the attempt to land. And the pilot came back, “You should have seen what it looked like from here. It could have ended badly.”

But all was not lost. The captain asked if the pilot he would check for any debris sightings. After making several laps around the area, the pilot came back on the radio to report they saw not one but two huge wind-rows of plastic debris. He started rattling off things they could recognize from above including a coat hanger. On his last lap around, the pilot preformed an air drop. The packaged contained something the captain had asked him to bring for a badly needed part for a generator- Thank you!

There is one more cool part of the story. It has to do with something in the first picture.

More tomorrow.

Bonnie

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 10

Noon Position 30°46'22.26"N, 158°51'4.26"W
Blog 10 Wednesday 9/16/09
Last night, we sent a picture of stuff Captain Moore pulled out of the ocean while riding around on the dinghy. The fish he caught in the picture were actually inside the plastic pollution while others were living on it. Here is what you can see in the picture (even though there were many more):

2 trigger fish
2 Hawaiian sergeants
2 different crabs
2 fire worms (polychaetes)
2 Goose neck barnacles (that you can see)
Pretty impressive catch I’d say!

Yesterday’s blog hinted toward a lull in action as we waited to hear if our guests were coming. It looks like it’s a go so here it is. We have a production company flying out to this location via a Billabong seaplane. We don’t know who the cast members are yet, but we do know some main players are Captain Moore and some plastic pollution. Mike Prickett is producing the film. They’ll be snorkeling and interviewing and we’ll all be talking trash as we run PowerPoints and share the mission of AMRF. We’re pretty stoked!

Even though ORV Alguita hasn’t done much but go around in circles for 48 plus hours, we are getting quite the well-rounded perspective on sea animal and human transportation. This morning on my watch, we had not one but two more ships pass by. One was only 3.5 miles away which is something like a near miss. No worries, the captain watched over things to insure we didn’t have some unexpected visitors. Three ships in less than 12 hours - pretty exciting considering we haven’t seen any marine vessels in eight days!

Speaking of marine vessels, here’s a fish with its own (see photo above.) Bill took me out on the dinghy so I could practice videotaping dinghy style for tomorrows big seaplane landing when we noticed a large plastic dish-looking object about 18” around. We drove over to it and found not only a trigger fish lying on its side in the dish, but also a Hawaiian sergeant. We aren’t sure if the fish were sunning or stuck. Compliments of ocean plastic, we aren’t the only ones with flotation devices.

We stopped seeing the red-footed boobies. They only travel so far North and for the past five nights we haven’t seen a hide nor feather of them. But interestingly enough, we have started to see black-footed albatross (photo above.) They are a magnificent bird that can fly a 1000 miles foraging for food and if the wind conditions are right, they only need to flap their wings a few times. Their nine foot wing span and unique wing design may have a lot to do with it. Check out this black-footed albatross as it gets a running start while launching itself through the air. Seaplanes and albatross - what fantastic opportunities we are getting to witness out here over 550 miles from land.

They aren’t the only things that can fly. Check out Lindsey getting ready to launch off of the mainsail beam to plunge 9 meters down and me showing her how its done. Good times.
More later.
Bonnie

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 9

Noon Position 30°43'58.02"N, 158°57'52.98"W
Blog 9 Tuesday 9/15/09
First, I have a correction. The sea anchor is closer to 24 feet in diameter. And I have to admit, it’s been a little bit of a preoccupation for a couple of reasons. One reason is, we are drifting trying to keep a location as best we can for the past two days so there hasn’t been a lot going on. I went out on the bow today and watched the sea anchor swim deep below the surface. (The water is that clear!) Because it has several lines that connect to the bridle and then two lines that connect it to the front of the ship (one on the starboard side another on the port side), it looks much like a huge jelly fish. The lines emulate tentacles as the parachute fills wide with water then squeezes inward and repeats the motion. I had no idea such a simple concept could hold back the 25 plus ton RV Alguita from traveling faster than a knot. Pretty cool.

The other reason why I’m trying to keep myself busy is because we’re waiting on visitors. Remember I mentioned there was a reason for holding our position. Well, one was to try the experiment that didn’t bode well and the other is, we are waiting on a special visit. They were supposed to arrive tomorrow, but due to ocean conditions it’s been delayed. Right now the sea state is working back down from a five this morning to a three. We need it to be closer to a one to make it happen. It’s all very exciting and I’ll keep you posted as the potential event unfolds.

We did have an unexpected ship sighting that was about six miles away. “Research vessel Alguita to Antonis a Gelicousis can you read me on channel 16 over?” Captain Moore sent over the airways. And after several attempts a voice came back with either a French or Asian accent, we couldn’t decide. The voice came back requesting us to change the channel to 12 so we could talk. We explained that we were doing research and were anchored making it difficult to change positions. The Captain asked where they departed from, and the voice said, “Los Angles,” then the Captain inquired about their destination, and the voice replied, “Singapore.” Each Captain wished safe travels and then it was over. Check out this picture Jeff Ernest took of it when it was six miles away. It looks like a ghost ship.

We’ve been cleaning the place up for visitors. I cleaned windows and the bathroom. Gwen vacuumed, and Bill got rid of some food supplies that didn’t make it. It’s a team sport! The Captain made the day more interesting by going out on the dingy looking for plastics. Since the sea state is still rough and we aren’t really traveling vary far, we aren’t seeing the swath of Open Ocean like we had in previous days. Not long after he left, he was back again with plastic gadgets from the sea. “Any one lose a toilet brush? How about some caulking?” Look at all the animals that live in or on the plastic pollution the Captain found, can you count them? (see the photo at the beginning of the blog)

More later.

Bonnie

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 8

Noon Coordinates: 30°50'57.96"N, 159° 1'9.24"W

Monday 9/14/09 -The Experiment

We’ve been trying to hold a position since last night. That is, as best we can with a sea anchor. Since it’s too deep to have an anchor reach the bottom, we use a sea anchor. How a sea anchor works is it has a 10’ diameter circular opening at the front end but only a 2’ diameter circular opening on the back end. It works like an underwater parachute, slowing the boat down as it drags it through the water. So we’re moving but usually under one knot.

Since AMRF started, Captain Moore has wanted to try an experiment, but there’s never been enough time. We found a couple of days to try it. So last night, with a sea state of one, we tied nine buoys together with the huge freighter rope that we retrieved and made an island of plastic that was tethered to the ship. The idea was to see how long it took for marine life to take refuge under it and to also see what types of fish it would attract.

We woke to a sea state of three and by 1000, the sea state jumped to a six. Constant whitecaps frothed with 10’ swells that took our experiment and twisted into a bunch of knots. Before any of the buoys could be torn away by the force, we had to get them out. Not trivial. It took all of us - using the winch to lift it enough to untangle it while hanging over the railing looked much like riding a mechanical bull. Sometimes a knife was needed. Using a knife when the ship is riding up the side of one swell while being rock sideways by another and then slapped back down is a scary thought. I was happy to run the winch or carry the untethered buoys to the back of the ship. With the wind up at 25 knots and the waves crashing against Alguita, it was difficult to hear. It took unspoken cooperation of all of us - each watching the actions of the others so as to know when you could step in, reading each moment knowing that this was a serious situation and we all depended on each other. Here was a perfect example of how the ocean can change and present a situation that will require all hands on deck. And here, on the ocean, creates many opportunities to work for the common good.

Before the ocean decided to turn on us this morning, the Captain and Lindsey took the dingy out so Lindsey could get some pictures of Alguita as well as look for some big pieces of plastics to bring in since the ship was anchored. But because the sea state was much rougher than the day before, they weren’t finding much of anything. They did find some tangled up, photo-degraded rope, but it was down too deep for them to retrieve by hand. Here’s why, when the surface is rough, the plastics cannot float as easily on the surface making them impossible to see. This highlights another issue with determining just how much plastic is out here. What we have been trawling for and the items we have been collecting only express what we are finding on the surface when it is relatively calm.

After our buoy ordeal, the Captain thought it best to bring the dingy on deck. Here’s where Jeff, who Marcus and Ana call "Boat Monkey", lived up to his nickname. Remember the sea state is a six and the dingy is not only rockin’ and rollin’, but its getting slapped full of water every couple of waves. Without a second thought, Jeff jumped from the stern into the dingy. He fought to keep his balance as he bailed with one hand, pulled in oars that were on they’re way out, and ducked the line from the ship that came close to clothes-lining him a few times. As soon as he got most of the water out a huge swell came and nearly knocked him out as the rouge wave rolled in. He rode it through like a rodeo with the rope flying, his hands flailing as his ride bucked several feet in the air. Amazing balance and coordination! Shortly after the dingy rested on the stern, the Captain declared the remainder of the day a Rest Day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 7

Noon Position 31° 8'52.14"N, 159°54'2.28"W

Day 7, Sunday 9/13/09
Within an hour of setting our fishing poles last evening, we caught a five footer. Not a fish, but plastic fishing rope. Over the past 10 years, AMRF has been finding more and more plastic pollution, like the polymer rope, on the end of their fishing lines when out in the Pacific. The fishing was over by dark with only the plastic catch to show for it, but we did catch some wind that crept up to 16 knots yesterday. It peaked at 1800 hours, but then steadily dropped off. This segues into my morning watch. I promise not to bring up my morning watch again for awhile, but this is important.

Orion, who was at the aft of the ship yesterday morning, was now back on my starboard side which means we changed directions again. The reason why we’ve been jockeying around is to get into a specific location. I will tell you more about that tomorrow. Anyway, I hadn’t worked my shift but 20 minutes when the captain showed up. What brought him to the bridge was the wind slapping time against the near listless sails. I had pointed the ship five degrees into the wind portside after Gwen had added 10 degrees just before my shift started. But it was mute; the sails had to come down. I stepped out into the early morning air and the ocean was like a lake. Sea state one - the ocean was like an antique glass pane with subtle ripples. The night so quiet the only thing I could hear was whining rope lines and the occasional slamming sails. But after letting down the genoa and main sails, they were gone too.

Because it was so calm, it made for a great day to trawl and so we did starting at 0500. We are not in the Garbage Patch yet, but today you might have thought we were. We were running two trawls at a time and each time the trawls came in with ample of plastics particles that rivaled the natural organisms that should be there. We ran three sets of two running trawls, each for one hour. Here are two of the samples we collected;

After receiving a request to try to take a picture of the plastic bits floating past the ship, I decided an easier way might be to catch the pieces because taking a picture would be extremely difficult with the ship moving and the pieces randomly floating across a 25’ wide bow. Using a small net, not much bigger than my hand, I set the timer for 10 minutes and started plucking. It was not trivial and the first five minutes there was a huge learning curve. To an onlooker, it must have looked like a possessed pole. It had more control than I did. But by the time I was finished, I collected 22 pieces of plastic fragments! But the ones I missed were easily 10 fold than what I caught. (See first picture.)

As I had mentioned earlier, we are on a mission to get to a location so by 1300 hours we were cruising at close to 10 knots engine power. Most of us sat on the bow enjoying the perfect 80o weather with blue skies and speed-bump-free waters while looking for plastics. If it came by the ship close enough, we would try to scoop it out. All kinds of stuff floated by that were too far for our nets to reach - buoys, bottles, crates, Styrofoam chunks, fishing gear, jugs, and large broken fragments. After several attempts, Bill decided to give it up until he saw a blue 10 gallon bucket labeled corrosive coming right for us. He patiently waited for it gently flow into his net and then gave it a yank.. That’s when we realized it was heavy because it almost pulled him over the rail.

But the mother load of plastic catching today was a 55 gallon drum made out of plastic. This one required the A frame. But before we took it out, Lindsey, Jeff, the captain and I jumped in. We snorkeled with the fish that were both under it and inside of it. The captain and Jeff stayed in to lasso the drum and guide it in while Gwen steered the boat, Lindsey and Bill managed the line and I ran the winch. Once it was finally on deck, we all got a laugh when we realized nine fish were still inside of it.
More later, Bonnie

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 6

Noon Coordinates: 29°52'15.12"N, 160°19'9.60"W
Day 6 9/12/09
Each of us take (2) two hour shifts captaining Alguita each day. Mine run from 0400-0600 and again from1600 to 1800 hours. I’m not a morning person but I look forward to my 4-6 am shift to watch the sunrise from the captain’s chair. Above it is a hatch that we poke our heads through to watch the weather and check the sails (if they’re up) as well as look for any on-coming traffic or debris. We haven’t seen another boat or heard (or seen) any air traffic in five days. We are completely alone out here on the 159th parallel. The only things showing up on the radar are some thunderheads. I pop out the hatch to make sure then feel the rain on my face. The chance of running into debris is much higher. On the last leg, Alguita had two mishaps with derelict nets that got stuck in the props. Because this debris, called Ghost Nets, float close to the surface, but don’t always break it, they are difficult to see even when standing looking over the bow. In the dark it’s even more of a challenge. None the less, standing on the captain’s chair and watching the sun come up to greet moon is a pretty rare sight - in my world anyway.

For the past couple of days we traveled over the Musicians Sea Mountains - without even changing altitude! One of them we passed over named, Brahms Mountain, is over two miles high and we still cleared it by a mile. So the sea floor was actually three miles below us. Others in this mountain range are called Schubert, Handel, and Mozart to name a few.

With Jeff still sleeping, the Captain decided to put up some sails. That meant I was going to have to step-up to the plate to help put up the Stay Sail and the Main. Not having any sailing experience I’ve been the weak link and am confident if we were a reality show I would have been voted off the boat the second day. But Lindsey, Bill, the captain and I put it up like pros. Shortly after, I was standing by the captain’s chair and the Captain bent down to pick up a red plastic handle to a drawer that was mysteriously on the floor. He handed it to me and made a comment that it was the Handle Award because I’m finally getting a handle on how to sail! No one knows where the handle came from but I had to admit it was fitting. I am starting to get it finally. And we are now traveling at about 6 knots on free fuel.

We had a lot of rain most of the day today with a sea state of four. Water rushed over the bow as Alguita made its way up one wave and down another. Waves slammed under the haul with a loud boom. Scuba Drew calls them water bombs, I call them speed bumps - coming from Wilmington, NC the speed bump capital of the world I know what they sound like on the bottom of a car.

Bad weather doesn’t stop a young salt like Jeff. He put a couple of fishing lines out and within a few minutes caught a 27 standard length Mahi Mahi. It was too small to eat (really?) so Gwen had to prepare it for sampling in her lab later. Off to see if we caught any more fish.
More later.

Bonnie

Day 5

Noon Coordinates: 28° 3'40.26"N, 160°18'52.80"W

Day 5, 9-11-09
Today we’re heading due north toward an area that appears to have a bloom of algae according David Foley, NOAA. Algae (phytoplankton) are primary producers. Using CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, along with chlorophyll, they harvest energy from the sun. Primary production is defined as the utilization of CO2 and O2 to produce cellular bio-mass and energy. An algal bloom results from numerous conditions, but fundamentally from the increase in the limiting nutrients which stimulate algal growth. This results in an increase of chlorophyll that can be detected by remote sensing satellites. So when the conditions favor an algal bloom, the hypothesis is there will be an accumulation of plastic marine pollution as well. We’re going to test that hypothesis and should be on location in two days.

Our wind situation has gotten worse over the past two days. As the barometric pressure goes up the wind goes down. Today we started at 1017 and by 5 pm, the barometric pressure was 1022. The sea state has gone from a 3 to a 1 since this morning which means it now has only slight ripples and is almost glassy. It’s a magical sight to watch the ocean change its terrain from high rolling waves to a near motionless field of blue. Over the past five days I’ve likened it to driving across country. Some places have steep hills and valleys and some are flat meadows and fields. None the less, it is anything but boring out here. We’ve traveled 489 miles since we left the Harbor Monday afternoon, stopping only a few times to trawl and to swim and we’re not tired of it yet. Everyday presents another opportunity to witness the quantities of plastic that are in very remote locations of the North Pacific Gyre. We haven’t seen land since Monday and yet everyday we pull out large items. Today it was four buoys, three plastic bottles, a rope, big piece of a bag and a plastic Korean milk crate with fish swimming under, around and through it. Lindsey and Bill had a chance to jump in and take underwater shots of it. I stayed out after being stung by a Portuguese Man of War that wrapped its tentacle around my neck, across my back and down my arm. Not fun.

Today we also had three trawls going simultaneously. It looked like a race to see which trawl could haul in the most plastic. All three were winners as they all collected more plastic than we imagined, especially since we’re outside the Garbage Patch. While the trawls worked there magic on the back deck, a few of us were doing timed plastic sightings. It goes like this. We get the coordinates, set our stop watch for 10 minutes and begin to count with a clicker-counter the plastic pieces that float by. The pieces have to be as distinctive as possible to be counted as plastic (i.e. odd shapes and colors.) It’s disheartening to hear the clicker in rapid fire as photo-degraded pieces of plastic float past the RV Alguita. In fact, in 10 minutes we counted 147 pieces. Pristine water that should be untarnished is peppered with plastics.

More soon!
Bonnie