Posted by: Cynthia Matzke
Midday Coordinates 36.33.140 139.11.017
This is the last full day we are expecting to spend in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it is a beautiful one. The term ‘expecting’ is used because the captain has made it clear we have a destination, not a schedule to keep. We are constantly reminded that ultimately nature controls our fate, and plans are mere desires of man. Especially out here, our sailboat in little wind with just a half tank of fuel remaining in each engine and 1000+ nautical miles to go.
After not seeing any television or film for well over a month it was a treat to watch the movie “Plastic Planet” today, which I highly recommend, and includes an interview with Captain Moore aboard this vessel. I learned quite a bit about the unlisted “industry secret” chemicals that go into plastics which also makes recycling a challenge, and the horrors of Bisphenol A (PBA) which is recognized as hazardous in Canada and the EU and banned in baby bottles, but not here in the USA. Seems the FDA is asleep at the wheel on this one. While admittedly I long for the escapism of a good comedy, fantasy or drama once back on dry land, for now staying present in this sobering reality is the task at hand. For a few more days I can film for the documentary I’m writing and co-producing called “Spiral Pacific” which features a segment on the marine debris issue and the work being done by Algalita and affiliated researchers.
As we are effectively at the edge of the accumulation zone, we are still seeing larger fragments like pieces of crates and packaging. Thankfully, a few of the education sample trawls are pulling up less small plastic bits than we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
This afternoon there was some excitement when we saw another sailboat on the horizon for the first time in weeks, gaining on us quickly from the stern. We hailed them on the radio and enjoyed a brief conversation with the vessel “Green Buffalo” a Cal40 en route to San Francisco. Apparently this was their return trip after competing in the Pacific Cup race to Hawaii. Then just like that, they blew by us and were gone.
So begins our 10 day commute home, IF things go according to plan. Not only is the weather fine, but as we prepare to say goodbye to this remote and amazing part of the ocean, a few unexpected emotions surface. While this voyage was truly once in a lifetime considering the weeks spent and scope of the research, will any of us return here to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to continue the work and monitor changes over time? This is a very unique part of the world and we have seen and experienced some incredible things: odd life forms, an island of plastic trash, windrows choked with nasty garbage, to the waters’ intense shade of ‘deep gyre blue.’ All images that won’t soon be forgotten. Sometimes a place just gets to you.