Update from the Sea Dragon’s crew-What does a garbage patch look like?

May 11 2012

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Today the Expedition crew encountered some big plastic garbage northwest of the the Marshalls (click here to see the position of where it was found– zoom out to get landmass context)
These pictures just came through on email from our team at sea just a few moments ago (15:04 PST)
From Marcus:
We’re 1300 miles into our trip, and somewhere around 21N,156E – still balmy, sweaty, muggy, stinky, but the 14 people on this 72ft. boat are all smiles celebrating Bob’s 64th birthday in the middle of the western garbage patch of the North Pacific Gyre. This is not the well-known Eastern Garbage Patch, but the one 6,000 miles to the west, near Japan.
Tyler was 30ft. in the air standing on the first pair of spreaders on the mast. From that vantage point you’re the tallest point on the planet 1000 miles in all directions, and can see for many miles around. “Hey, there’s something big and white off the starboard side!” he yells.
Debris from West NPG 2012It’s a chunk of Styrofoam the size of a 55-gallon drum. We can’t say whether it’s debris from the tsunami event last year, but it is the biggest thing we’ve found. There’s nothing written or stamped on it, or anything identifying where it came from. It’s just a massive chunk of polystyrene foam rolling across the seas.

With everything back on deck we haul in the Hi-speed trawl. Like we suspected, there are a few dozen particles of plastic ranging from the size of a pea to a grain of sand. This is the edge of the garbage patch. It’s not an island, nor is it easily visible, except for the random bottle, like the detergent bottle we found this morning. It’s mostly microplastic particles showing up endlessly in our nets, each the size of fish food, in every gyre, in every ocean, and also here.

Another Report:

Greetings from 21N,155E, where it’s hot and seas are calm, as expected.  We made two debris sightings yesterday, which we collected.

5-11-12   Time 11:15    19.56N, 155.04E     Small, green detergent bottle, approx. 20cm tall.  Heavily fouled by marine life.  Very degraded on the surface.

5-11-12   Time 17:15    20.31N, 155.11E     Large foamed polystyrene cylinder, approximately 1 meter tall, almost the size of a 55 gallon drum.  There was almost no fouling on this debris, perhaps because it is an unstable substrate, moving and rolling across the sea surface.  Only 3 juvenille barnacles on it.   Looked to be relatively clean and new.  Typically foamed polystyrene degrades quickly at sea, becoming rounded on the edges first.  This is not the case here.

http://5gyres.org/posts/2012/05/11/what_does_a_garbage_patch_look_like_pictures_of_big_plastic_and_samples