Filed under: Environment, Marine Debris, North Pacific Gyre, Ocean, Plastic, Plastic Vortex | Tags: Debris, Garbage, Garbage Patch, North Pacific Gyre, Ocean, Ocean Waste, Pacific Ocean, Plastic, Plastic Vortex, Project Kaisei
You will like this video! Please spread the word, and vote every day in May, to help us get back out to the North Pacific Gyre this August on our 2nd expedition, this time to bring back a lot of debris!
You can vote here http://pep.si/alxXpl
Also, send us your videos, 30secs or less, like this one, that can help motivate people to Vote Kaisei in May! We will post it if we can! Please upload to Youtube or another site, and send us the link to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We need your help! Motivate the world! We can really all make a difference on this.. the momentum is here..for our ocean…and you!
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From Doug Woodring, Co-Founder, Project Kaisei – August 27, 2009
After being at sea for three weeks, and thinking about what is going on in the oceans, it is a daunting thought. The size and the expanse is enormous, and we only looked mainly on the surface. One can only imagine what might be happening below where year’s of sunken debris lays unnoticed.
The Kaisei is still at sea, on her way back now to San Francisco, where she will come home, under the Golden Gate, on August 31st. Project Kaisei had two vessels in the North Pacific Gyre this summer, both studying aspects of the marine debris issue, and what possible solutions might come of it. Much of the data will need to be analyzed once we are on land and the samples are put through lab work, but we do know that the problem is pervasive, and that we witnessed plastic in all of our surface sample trawls over 1,200 miles of sampling (on the New Horizon – the Kaisei had the same results in about 2,400 miles of sampling).
From here, we will begin working with a wide variety of groups in industry, innovation, policy and education in order to help spread the word about ways we can slow the degredation of our seas. This will require assistance from motivated individuals around the world to help spread the word, and to help create change. We will use our images and video footage to make educational material, hopefully multilingual, that will allow teachers and motivators around the world to capture the imagination of those who might not realize what the impacts their daily lives are having on our environment. To do this, we also need financial support, so that we can grow our reach, and expand our global relationships to bring all types of solutions to the
table, be they land-based or ocean-based.
Project Kaisei will be planning future expeditions and research to expand upon the knowledge that we have already gained from our expedition this summer. Hopefully our followers can spread the word to their friends and contacts, and we all can work together to make one of the largest changes ever undertaken for the benefit of our ocean.
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In earlier blogs I have likened our voyage to the Plastic Gyre to a jaunt on the Shuttle to Outer Space. I am now feeling the effects of re-entry. Returning to “real life“ is weird. The ocean journey is so real and fresh that I indeed feel awkward as an auk looking around at how we humans go about our daily activities on land.
A few hours after arriving in Hong Kong on Monday, I had repacked and was on another flight to Shanghai. “Insane!” my San Francisco friends said en route (I flew from Portland via SF to Hong Kong and on to Shanghai….) Yes, re-entry was a blur during the precious few hours’ stopover in SF as their hospitality outdid itself – a street food festival in The Mission district, a mojito (or two) at a new found favourite dive The Phone Booth, and a stunning late late lunch at Limon, a Peruvian gem on the other side of 24th Street. Maximum overload stimuli plus cocktails… While I was poured into a spa bath, my greasy dirty stuff in the laundry to get me all clean and squeaky for the long ride back East, they looked at photos. “Too much to explain in one go”, I said, and passed out before the taxi came.
I finally arrived in Shanghai last evening, cancelled a dinner appointed and fell into bed to awake fully dressed nearly 12 hours later.
“Where am I ? Where’s my bunk? Did I miss my manta madness night shift ???!!!”
I’m back to a routine I knew before. That’s before I embarked upon one of the most extraordinary journeys of my life to date. I have not had time to process everything – this I know will come in time, and in its own time. What I do know profoundly is, things are not the same – they cannot be. I don’t want them to be because I want to be part of something that has to do with change. The positive, collective change in habits and behavior that needs to happen to most of us living in this modern world.
My routine is not routine anymore. I am mindful of everything – every interaction, every decision, big or small. I’m happier for it. And, I’ve slowed down my reactions to consider more clearly the actions I want to take. No kneejerk.
I also know now that my intuition was correct for this voyage. It is one I had to go on, not wanted to go on. I am extremely grateful for being able to have made this “requirement” of mine a reality. So, “real” can actually be so, if you want it badly enough.
I think of reality in relative and virtual ways. One day aboard bordering sundowner time, Jim the Scripps faculty advisor of Lucky, The Catatonic Puppy fame by now, caught Josh, Andrew and I mixing virtual cocktails on the bridge deck. We were so into it we did not see his stealth camera clad figure quietly observing our convincing behavior. “What are you guys doing?” his inquiring smile slid into the scene. Giggles and pours into my issue Bunk 17 cup where enough to widen his grin into full-blown underbreath gut laughs. Josh had divulged his recipe for a Dizzy Fizzy, we were flirting with a Twurly Wurly and I was just about to spout a cheating meanest Margarita.
There were so many real things on the trip it hurt. Sometimes real hurts. People avoid real or hurt if they can. Miraculously, everyone came away physically unscathed in relation to the hardcore machinery in use aboard. The real stuff is the findings that can be used to build awareness of the problem at hand, namely, the debris we found in one of the oldest ecosystems on earth.
There will be a press conference at Scripps Institution this Thursday, 27th August. Check it out. http://www.scrippsnews.ucsd.ed. Hopefully Scripps SEAPLEX 1 and the Project Kaisei “Ocean Recovery Alliance” effort are the beginning of more needed scientific trips to the gyre and other places of real concern.
Meanwhile, I go about my first day back noticing how many things we use and throw out that are made with non-biodegradable materials. It simply does not add up. My psyche is reset. Truth is, in this re-entry period, I am going through withdrawal. I miss everyone on board. I miss it the being there and being a part of something so important. I just want to make a difference. I hope nothing will be the same.
And, I may have a real hangover tomorrow. Where are my virtual cocktail party boys when I need them?
Beam me up!
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High Seas Haikus
I should come on more of these cruises. I won 20 bucks on the football betting pool for the San Diego vs Settle game last Saturday, and I was co-winner of the on-line high seas Haiku contest (a beer at the Rogue Brewery in Newport). Here are the three top entries:
Whales spout plastic tears.
Behold a New Horizon !
Hope dawns with the sun.
Happy fish swims free.
Meets the deep Oozeki trawl.
Sample jar 1-3
Along the currents.
Drift plankton and trash alike.
Our New Horizon.
Seas are at 6-8 foot swells, some people are getting green around the gills, waves crash over the bridge. No more sampling due to time constraints need to reach port before 0800 on Friday. We’re packing up, assembling our gear, preliminary information and thoughts for future endeavors. The gyre is behind us for this voyage. We have an exciting future ahead.
Riding Eastward waves.
Project Kaisei future bound.
Sea legs on dry land.
See you on terra firma!
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We have just passed through the convergence zone, leaving the gyre, after two weeks in only one area of a large water mass, known as the North Pacific Gyre. Our findings made believers out of doubters, if there were any before we set out. We found bits of plastic debris, consistently, in over 100 sample nets, towed on the surface, over 900 miles of water. These samples were random in their location, but scheduled in their intervals.
I too was surprised. I knew we would not find an “island” out here, but I also didn’t expect to find the mass-existence of so much smaller debris. Now the question is “how deep does it go?” How fast does the material break down into this small, “confetti” state, after being at sea in the form of a large object from the beginning of its journey to the gyre?
We only scratched the surface. That is sad, because there is a lot of ocean that we did not survey, and the water characteristics in the gyre suggest that there is much more than what we witnessed in just a two-week period. What this shows us is that man has extended it’s reach, to the far reaches of the world, in this case the ocean, in the form of another environmentally tarnished footprint. We only saw two boats on the entire time in the gyre, and one was the Kaisei. Even planes barely fly overhead. This is the “quiet zone” in terms of human activity, because there is no one out here working, polluting, or wasting things, yet we have still managed to leave our mark in the form of debris. It has come from all of us. There is only one ocean. This debris filled gyre is a perfect case of tragedy of the commons.
It is our ocean, and now it is time to appreciate its importance in our daily lives, even if we don’t touch it every day, instead of always taking from it, or adding to it.
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The 100th manta was deployed during the last intensive station, the bongos and Ozeki have been retired and the ship has turned eastward signaling our return voyage has commenced. By no means are we sitting on deck in the sun and intermittent squalls enjoying Virgin Marys and Shirley Temples. We’re still on six-hour manta and nightly CTD duty and we’re having a Town Hall Science Meeting this evening to summarize our journey. Our night shift is buzzing albeit at lower volume. With the most recent CTD deploys we’ve been sending down painted personalize Styrofoam cups to shrink. Squashing those air bubbles at depth anywhere from 500 to 1000 meters produces neat little shot glasses, a great conversation piece or gift for family and friends. Hey, since the device is going down anyway, might as well use science and lots of pressure to create something cool and possibly useful (no Styrofoam escaped in the making of these cups, nor was any animal tested or harmed ). Mine don’t leak as far as I can tell. I will test them with legal substances once upon dry land having disembarked from our dry vessel.
Chief Scientist Miriam spoke of disembarkation procedures today during our weekly drill. This last week has arrived suddenly and people are already starting to pack up and batten down the equipment. There’s another good reason for this. We are expected to hit weather – 10 to 15-foot swells as we approach the Oregon Coast within the next few days. The waves are expected to roll the vessel from side to side so Miriam suggests fortifying our bunks on either side with pillows. Where are the bunk belts when you need them? Doug and a few others have mentioned they will reaffix seasick patches just in case. I didn’t need them coming out and will see how my constitution holds.
I’m already going through intensive manta deployment withdrawal. It’s weird having six hours between tows. During the intervals, we watch plastic during the day and log findings by night (We also fish and watch squid surface the night crew assist with search lights to illuminate prey and preyed upon we caught one !). We’ve seen loads of plastic debris today, large, small and medium. We’re compiling an interim findings report which hopefully will be ready soon following the cruise.
I’m weaning myself gently on to a daytime schedule so I can enjoy some non-comatose Vitamin D sessions. But not before I had one last evening of being transported by the cosmodome that is the night sky enveloping you as you lie on your back on the bow staring into space. There were so many stars I could not distinguish the constellations. Big Dipper, Northern Star and Casiopia were the only ones I could identify. I wished I had had a starmap to guide me through the thicket of lightfield. Then a flash blaze shooting star erupted to streak the heavens with a glowing twinkling brush. All on deck cried out in unison and wonderment.
One other observation about being in the middle of the ocean is the clouds. The horizon appears to end (yet not terribly convincingly to me, I see curvature and unseen distance). The clouds keep going. Layers, bulges and collages of them. I see clouds over clouds of earlier in my day as I look westward. I see the upcoming morning’s clouds at predawn as I catch a post-CTD pre lab peek on the fantail as the day prepares to wake. The clouds make the sunrises and sunsets expansive canvas modern
You also know it’s wind down time when we gathered yesterday on the bow for a cruise group photo. Squinting into the afternoon seaglare, we flew the joint team T-shirt colors of Scripps and Project Kaisei. We are a happy bunch on the New Horizon having nearly completed a successful foray together to the Plastic Vortex.
Detached from the realm of humans, we just as well could have been aboard the Shuttle to Outer Space on this expedition. We’ve collected our “moonrocks,” our samples, our data, much experience and are headed landward toward hard earth. Time to head Home.
The motion of the ship is now in my body. I wonder what it will feel like to maneuver on solid ground. I am beginning to see where oceanographers are coming from when some of them say they are awkward as auks on land. I am already contemplating getting a hammock for “reentry” readjustment. Or, I may prefer the hammock and simply want to keep sleeprocking. Which means I will need to deploy myself once again out to sea at some point in the not too distant future.
I am filing this blog not knowing if the seas will allow another one prior to docking in Newport. If this should be the case, wish us fair winds and safe passage on the home stretch.
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Chelsea Rochman on the New Horizon
Scripps Science Team
The Pollutant Multiplier
The array of emotions this cruise has brought us all is indescribable.
It started off with such excitement and anticipation of what we may findand the journey ahead. That was followed by amazement and awe of the odd animals we were pulling up in the tows in the California Current. Then we began to find what we came here to see and emotions varied by person. For me, the reality of the plastic soup hit hard. The sight is overwhelming and the sadness for this mess in the ocean rained over me. Like a train wreck you cannot look away. As we continue on in the gyre thoughts about what we can do surround us? How can we truly make a difference? In my opinion there are two really important things we can do right now. One: educate others about the issue so that we can attempt to cut it off at the source. Prevention is important. Two: further our understanding of the effects on the oceans and its inhabitants. Amazing research is being conducted as we speak from all over the world. Each issue must first be understood in order to attack it properly. On this specific cruise we all may have a common interest, yet we each have our own specific niches. My niche happens to lie in the field of ecotoxicology.
The issue of marine debris is not new. Scientists and environmentalists have been shining light on this issue for years. In terms of adverse effects on marine life, information has been mostly mechanical. Mechanical aspects are those involving animals entangled in debris or ingesting it and either choking or satiating them so they starve. It has become apparent that these issues may not be the only ones. Lately we hear about the “other” plastic problem. This “other” problem deals with chemistry.
There are two issues we are dealing with here. One, the plastic leaches chemicals used in manufacturing that can be toxic to organisms at certain concentrations. Or, the issue that worries me most, plastics are like magnets to pollutants already present in seawater and these adhere to their surfaces at magnified concentrations. The ocean is the ultimate sink for many industrial and agricultural pollutants. It is a known fact that pesticides, fuel residue, flame retardants, etc. are in the oceans.
These are a few of what we refer to as a suite of chemicals called Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs. Many POPs are known to be harmful to marine organisms. Animals will bioconcentrate these pollutants from water or sediments, or bioaccumulate them from other organisms. Rachel Carson told the story of how DDT, a pesticide, brought the brown pelicans to near extinction. POPs are persistent and not very soluble and thus can concentrate in the water, sediments and the food chain, and now plastic. These pollutants are hydrophobic, meaning they do not like water and thus stick to other particles in the water.
Plastic has become a new material for them to leach onto. Now, don’t let this fool you into sounding like a good thing because it removes the pollutants from the water. Many organisms have been documented to ingest plastic mistaking it for food. Once this plastic is introduced into their system the POPs have the ability to leach off and grab onto the tissue of the organism. As the animal eats more and more plastic it has the ability to accumulate more pollutants. Plastics have been documented to attract magnified amounts of POPs from the water.
When an organism ingests this plastic and inherits the pollutants it is termed bioaccumulation. Now, lets say ten krill eat a plastic pellet and accumulate a certain amount of a pollutant. Then, two fish eat five of the krill each and now each have five times as much pollutant as the krill. Then a tuna comes along and eats the two fish and has ten times as much pollutant as the krill. Then the tuna is caught in a net, sold at the grocery store, and sold to you at the store to put on your dinner plate. After dinner, you have now accumulated the magnified concentration of pollutant. This is termed biomagnification. Now the issue involves more than just the ocean, but us. What are the adverse effects of some of these pollutants you may wonder: at certain levels some are carcinogens, may harm the reproductive system, disrupt the endocrine system, and some can lead to death.
As we begin to understand this issue better there is hope that we can make a change. While the ocean may be the ultimate sink for many pollutants, it does not have to be. If we can understand the adverse affects of our run-off, policy can be implemented to create cleaner and safer oceans for both marine life and other critters including ourselves that use the ocean for sustenance.