Algalita Marine Research Blog

Algalita at the Ocean Institute

Posted by: Kim De Wolff

I’m happy to report that Algalita’s weekend events at the Ocean Institute were a resounding success. A steady flow of interested visitors at the display tables sparked some truly engaging conversations about plastics, animals, toxins, people and oceans, while Captain Moore gave another inspiring talk about marine plastic research, followed by a book signing.

As a July 2011 expedition participant, I was especially excited to be reunited with the Sea Dragon and crew, docked for tours. After seven months apart, with the tall mast as my guide, I approach the boat with excitement and slight trepidation. Would the Sea Dragon look the same? Would the crew remember me? Would stepping aboard bring back the nausea?

And there she is, all white-clean and shiny from a winter of refurbishments A brand new mainsail replaces the one splitting at the seams last summer, the shiny paint on the now-white hull not yet chipped by sampling equipment hand-hauled on and off deck in open seas. I descend into the cabin and it feels like the same friendly boat with some new clothes. There’s fancy wood shelving, brand-new seat cushions, everything clean and neatly stowed. I admire the new electrical system, especially the individual sockets for charging laptops in each bunk space. But the second I see ‘my’ bunk there’s a tiny flashback to the first rough days of the expedition, a mini wave of nausea. Or maybe it was just skipper Dale sneaking up to rock my shoulders while chanting “wooeeeoooweeeeooo.”

This was a test. The visit held the answer to a question I keep asking myself: would I do it again despite the first days adjusting to life at sea, the close quarters, the weeks without land in sight?

YES! Absolutely.

If you’d like to join the Algalita-Sea Dragon families on the science adventure of a lifetime, a few guest crew spaces remain for the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch and Tsunami Debris Field expeditions coming up in May.

Special thanks to the volunteers that patiently answered all kinds of questions about plastic in albatross tummies and turtles with hourglass figures, and to the super welcoming, ever helpful, Ocean Institute Staff.

More weekend photos can be found in the Orange County Register.




Date Posted: February 24, 2012 @ 6:45 pm Comments (0) | Comment Shortcut


Posted by: Katie Allen

Where is the Japan tsunami debris now? An initial prediction made public by the University of Hawaii said the debris would drift eastward after dispersing over the northwestern Pacific, with some matter expected to reach northwest Hawaii by March this year.  Check this MODEL.  Yet other oceanographers have already been gathering large buoys and other debris washed ashore along the west coast of Washington and British Colombia only 6 months after the tsunami, which they say definitively comes from the tsunami.
There are two maps: IPRC map, and Driftbusters map.  The IPRC map shows a blob of debris halfway across the ocean in a year, while the Driftbusters map shows debris halfway across in 6 months.  Which is correct?

They both are.  The difference is wind.  The IPRC Map does not take wind into account, only current.  The other includes wind, using data from real drifters.  They are both correct because not all debris behaves the same way.  Fishing buoys, large pieces of boat hulls only half submerged, empty propane tanks, will all catch wind because of their profile floating high above the water.  Like a sail, the wind can push them along. What’s missing is empirical evidence– validation from eyes at sea.  There have been only a few such sightings to date.  This is one reason why the 5 Gyres/Algalita voyage across the North Pacific is taking place, beginning May 1st for three weeks to Japan, then another 4 weeks to sail back to Hawaii.  Aboard the Sea Dragon we will sail through the Tsunami Debris Field to see if observations match predictions.  And there are a few seats left for adventurous crew.  Click HERE to learn more about joining an expedition.

Blog by Marcus Eriksen/5 Gyres

Date Posted: February 16, 2012 @ 8:34 pm Comments (0) | Comment Shortcut