2011 North Pacific Gyre Expedition

Expedition Summary

Hawaii to British Columbia
July 7 - July 27 2011

Blog Highlights

Meet the Crew >>

Gorilla Trawl >>
This is KNOT suppoed to be here >>
Treasure in the Trawl >>
Goopy Patch >>
Crew Snapshots
Hank Carson >>

Kim Dewolf >>
Tim Silverwood >>
Karen Ristuben >>

Following an exciting three weeks at sea, Algalita’s 8th Research Expedition to the North Pacific Gyre arrived safely in Vancouver, B.C. on July 27, 2011. The research objectives were met and all the guest crew agreed it was a valuable experience to have shared in conducting the science while developing new friendships that will span across the globe.

In all, a total of 38 trawls were conducted over 2,000 nautical miles, including 17 Manta Trawl and 21 Hi-Speed Trawls. Though we were confronted with more bad weather than anticipated early in the voyage, we met our research goals for dried and frozen plastic, sea water and fish. In addition, we collected samples for investigation of microbial communities colonizing on macro plastic items for the University of Arizona; as well as fish, seawater and micro plastic samples for the Universities of Tucson, Wisconsin and San Diego.

During the expedition, 100 pieces of floating marine debris were sighted. These included fishing buoys, plastic containers and fragments, glass and plastic bottles, and foamed polystyrene, etc. If deemed recoverable, debris was hauled onto deck and stripped of all fouling and disposed of at the voyage terminus in Vancouver, B.C. Selected marine organisms were then preserved by Hank Carson, Ph.D., University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The majority of whole debris items were fishing industry-related. Although rope and nets are present, they are difficult to spot more than fifty meters away. On the other hand, the above-surface profile of bottles and foam make them relatively easy to see from hundreds of meters away. However, a submerged bottle might only be a hundred meters away and go unnoticed.

The success of this voyage was due in large part to Algalita’s principal investigator, Marcus Eriksen, Ph.D. Ably supported by Sea Dragon Skipper, Clive Crosby and First Mate Dale Selvam, the addition of a marvelous guest crew rounded out the seamlessly executed research.

Hank Carson collected samples for his students and colleagues. Seoul Broadcasting System representatives, Brandon Kim and Woonchin Jin, were aboard to document the voyage for a television series titled “The Last Pacific”, due to air in late 2011. Australian filmmaker Tim Silverwood; Canadian Sociologist Kim De Wolff; Artist Karen Ristuben from Boston; Ming Hui-Liao, Taiwan; Rob Johnson, government contractor in Honolulu; teacher Judy Volquardsen from Kona, Hawaii and Carolynn Box from San Francisco were aboard to film, photograph and write about their experiences to support their respective projects.

All reported having experienced a unique event in their lives which they will share with their communities to engage them in working towards better solutions for sustainability of our precious ocean environment.

Washington State’s Green Builder Media interviewed Dr. Marcus Eriksen before the voyage on July 5, as part of their Webinar Impact Series. Click HERE to launch the archived version.

Expedition Goals

  • Vertical Distribution of Microplastic - A series of stacked trawls will descend 5 meters below the surface to investigate the affect of sea state on the vertical mixing of microplastic particles.
  • POPs on Plastic - Samples of plastic pollution will be collected in order to analyze them for the absorption of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
  • Spatial Distribution of Plastic Pollution in the North Pacific Gyre - We intend to collect 50+ sea surface samples from the North Pacific Gyre to better understand the type and abundance of microplastic particles along a transect from Hawaii to Vancouver, BC.

Expedition In the News

Montreal Gazette & Global News

ABC News - Watch the broadcast!

San Francisco Chronicle

AOL News

San Diego Union Tribune

Sierra Club Compass Blog

Mother Nature Network

Expedition Links and Resources

About the Sea Dragon >>