Surprising things…

Nov 29 2010

aM

At 1200 UTC on November 29 Sea Dragon is at 31.38.5S / 007.58.9W.  With the expedition well over half way through, we ask Anna and Marcus…

What is the most surprising thing you have experienced thus far on the voyage?

Two weeks ago, before the onset of the epic seas and storms that battered us for a solid week (this was rather surprising), we hooked what we thought was a big fish. The entire crew scampered up on deck, mouths watering with visions of fresh sushi for dinner. As it turned out, we’d hooked the lid of a garbage can. A fairly prophetic surprise given our mission!

I wish we could say it was a surprise to find plastic pollution in every single sample of ocean water we collected, however we’ve come to expect this. This research expedition makes our 4th gyre – we’ve now seen this trend in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. Still, no matter how much we expect it, it’s fairly astounding to see that plastic pollution consistently across this vast seascape. Over the last week, most of our samples contain more plastic than marine life.

This experience is different from all other gyre voyages, yet similar in many ways.  The plastic looks similar, with a confetti of hard fragments and pieces of fishing line being the most persistent plastic on the sea surface.  Similarly, the distribution is really spread out, most analogous to a tablespoon of confetti over a football field of area, but the trail of plastic particles never ends.  We don’t see Styrofoam or plastic bags very often out here, because thin or foamed plastics degrade by UV light very quickly.  In the last  48 hours we picked up a fishing float, plastic bottle, plate-sized flat piece of plastic, and one strange orange buoy 4 ft. long and 1ft. in diameter.  We’ve no idea what it is.

What makes these expeditions across 4 gyres very different, are the places you leave from and arrive to, and the people you travel with.  Two weeks ago we left the rainforests of Brazil, and in two weeks I’ll be on safari in Botswana.  The people on board make all the difference.  Today we had Thanksgiving dinner, all 13 of us, on a tiny bobbing boat in the middle of the ocean.

Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins