Posted by: Anna Cummins
The latest from Marcus aboard the Sea Dragon:
It's now day 3 in the South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. There is more plastic in each of the two trawls we're using. We have a
traditional plankton tow that can be used at 3 knots of speed maximum. Since we can't cross the ocean at 3
knots, we're limited to trawling a couple of hours each day. To solve this we built the HI-SPEED
trawl. Imagine a miniature model of the Starship Enterprise from the Star Trek TV series. It looks like that, but with a big
vertical mouth for gulping seawater. The beauty of this new design is that it can travel 7-10 knots and still
capture the surface of the ocean without surfing above it or diving below. It's our new invention and it works
beautifully. We've deployed it twice. Each time it's filled with more plastic as we sail deeper into the widening gyre. Here's a reminder from our Indian Ocean Gyre expedition of why Captains will love to high speed trawl:
We are now in the accumulation zone of the South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Every trawl is filled with the typical confetti of plastic fragments. It's now 10:00pm and the hi-speed trawl
will be deployed till sunrise. At night we expect to find fish in the net, which we will investigate for plastic
ingestion. There are 1,400 nautical miles and 10 days to go. More tomorrow...
Date Posted: August 31, 2010 @ 4:39 am Comments Off
Posted by: Anna Cummins
The latest from Marcus on the Sea Dragon "those of us on
land are always thrilled to get news. Despite almost half the crew flattened by
seasickness, it sounds like the mission is well underway... "
Christo stands with arms open wide, city lights spread
through the valleys and surrounding the coast, and jets soaring over our head
as we sail across the end of the runway.
I don't know what Rio de Janiero was like 300 years ago, but it was
nothing like this. Charles Darwin
reported a large breeding population in the bay when he came here aboard the
Beagle. Aboard the Sea Dragon
there are no such sightings. The
foul smell of raw sewage in the marina is behind us. A full moon pulls us to sea.
The EEZ is the Exclusive Economic Zone that creates a
200-mile boundary from the Brazilian coast that is off limits to our
research. We cannot test CO2 in
the water, collect fish or trawl for plastic debris. And that's all right by me and most of the crew that takes
turn pouring their stomachs into the sea.
20-25 knot winds keeps Clive and Dale, the Skipper and First Mate on
their toes, and the rest of us on our backs. At mile 217 east of Rio we throw in the trawl.
1.5 hours later we pull up the first scientific trawl for
plastic in the South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Among Man-o-war jellyfish, and zooplankton, there's a
confetti of plastic. It's the same
thing we've seen in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Indian Ocean. Gyres collect waste, and the 5
subtropical gyres have the highest concentrations. During the next 12 days we'll sample during the day and
night to get an idea of the spatial distribution of plastic waste here. The predicted accumulation zone is
south of our present location, but we'll skim the top of the gyre and then head
north to Ascension Island.
Ascension Island should be an interesting oasis, sitting in between Africa and South
America. It receives currents coming out of the east rising up from the African coast. Bucky McMahon, GQ journalist,
adventurer, author and diver, introduced me to the concept of
"Coastering". It's a
simple idea, find an island and walk the coast until you're back where you
started. Ascension Island is
roughly 7 miles in diameter, so it will be a 25 mile, 2-day hike. I hope we can pull it off. I definitely want to see what's washed
Date Posted: August 30, 2010 @ 6:20 am Comments Off
Posted by: Anna Cummins
Wrapping up the final day of the Blue Ocean Film Festival
in Monterey, where 5 Gyres was invited to speak on a panel following a screening of Bag It, joining Fabien Cousteau, Suzan Beraza from REEL Thing Productions, Daniella Russo from the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and Ximena Waissbluth from Surfider Foundation.
This was my second time seeing Bag It (and my second panel discussion in less than a week) and it was even better the second time around. A wonderfully personal look at the plastic pollution issue. Includes clips with two 5 Gyres reps - myself, and Marcus on the JUNKraft. After 3 packed days of tremendous speakers, films, and conversations with ocean heroes too numerous to count, a few key messages stand out. Our oceans are in critical condition, despite decades of ocean conservationists screaming for change. And our best hope for change lies in the next generation.
Speaker after speaker, from Sylvia Earle to Julie Packard to the creators of the IMAX films to the Cousteau family, J. Nichols, Carl Safina and others stressed the importance of educating the next generation about our oceans. Below, Jean-Michel, Fabien and Celine Cousteau, along with Holly Lohuis from Ocean Futures take the stage after a moving film tracing the legacy of Jacques Cousteau, whose famous words "we protect what we love" have never rung truer.
I'm more inspired than ever to return home, with a mountain of cards from new friends and fellow ocean advocates, and get to work. I find myself wondering - if we knew now that in 30, 40, or 50 years, life as we know it would come grinding to a halt, what would we do differently? Do we have enough information now to act accordingly? We need to make MUCH....MORE....NOISE. Now to the Blue Carpet awards ceremony!
Date Posted: August 29, 2010 @ 1:32 am Comments Off
Posted by: Anna Cummins
And they're off! This afternoon, our intrepid 5 Gyres team set sail for our first venture into the South Atlantic Gyre, from Rio to Ascension Island and back.
Meet the team of sailors, scientists, journalists and filmmakers aboard the Sea Dragon. We'll be hearing their stories over the coming weeks, with particular interest in Marcus's new "high speed trawl", which will revolutionize the way we collect our ocean samples. This will be the first of 3 expeditions through the South Atlantic Gyre studying plastic pollution, the 4th in our global 5 Gyres study. We're cheering them on from land!
Date Posted: August 26, 2010 @ 11:58 pm Comments Off
Apologies to our loyal readers on being a bit derelict from the blog. The truth is, we've been busy as hell preparing for our eight upcoming expeditions. But from here on out, expect lots of content and video from areas of the world never before studied for plastic pollution. As I write this, one of our directors, Dr. Marcus Eriksen is casting off from Rio De Janeiro heading to Ascension Island. Once out of Brazilian Waters, he'll be testing a new high speed trawl which will greatly increase our ability to sample the ocean more efficiently. As of now, trawling speed is about 2 knots, and the high speed trawl would increase that speed to about 8, hopefully. Onboard is an incredible list of international writers, activists, and film makers, including a reporter from GQ magazine. The crew will cast off today, after a successful event with our United Nations partner, Safe Planet. Keep up with blog, lots to come! Stiv
Date Posted: @ 8:56 pm Comments Off