We leave when the sea permits, and right now Typhoon Mawar is telling
us to stay put. We can set departure dates as much as we like, but a
faulty alternator kept us from leaving June 1st, and now the weather
window for leaving Tokyo Bay is slammed shut. Every voyage in every
ocean, since we first began surveying plastic pollution in other
gyres, has deferred to what the ocean permits. The expression “Throw
caution to the wind” comes from this decision point. Do we use
caution and wait, or force our preconceived schedule on the sea?
We’ll… tomorrow we may go to the beach to conduct a few
micro-plastic surveys, then the next day we may take a train to Tokyo
to visit a museum or two, and of of course we’ll keep the boat
ship-shape (a nautical term that refers to how lines are coiled on the
deck) so that we can depart as soon as it’s safe.
How does this change our work, meaning distance traveled and trawl
samples we hope to collect? Our plan is to sail into the tsunami
debris field, currently centered north of Midway Atoll.
Simultaneously, we’ll visit the exact location where Robert Day found
the most dense sample of plastic pollution in the North Pacific in
1985. His initial discovery of plastic pollution in the North
Pacific Gyre didn’t shake the world with media sensationalized images
of plastic islands the size of Texas, that myth that continues to cast
a shadow over public discussion on the issue. What Day found were
concentrations of plastic pollution as high as 316,000 pieces per/km2.
Captain Charles Moore found three times that amount in the Eastern
Garbage Patch a decade later. We’ll go to the same spot where Day
found his highest concentration to see if it has changed.
From that point we’ll sail through the tsunami debris field. Our goal
is to conduct two trawl samples every day, as long as weather permits.
We’ll climb from 35 degrees latitude to 40 degrees, then stay there
as long as we can before turning south to Maui. This is the
compromise we made due to our current delays. We’ll simply have less
time in the tsunami debris field, but still get the work done we set
out to do.