Lat: 33° 57’ N Lon: 139° 03’ W
This evening, the entire Kaisei crew held a group meeting to discuss the best strategies for marine debris collection and finding points of accumulation. Because more turbulent weather is expected, our team is trying to maximize the last of our calm days. All parts of the Kaisei crew are joining forces to find debris fields. One of our continuing strategies is counting marine debris from aloft or on the bowsprit for 30-minute intervals. By taking these counts, we get a sense of the frequency of debris, and PKST can compare this information with our trawl collections. Our goal is to sample in areas with both high and low accumulation rates of marine debris.
Another strategy involves launching our dinghies (“tenders”) in the debris fields to collect large pieces we would otherwise be unable to attain. The larger, more intact pieces will be used for educational outreach and displays in various museums. Many of these pieces tell a story about the origin of the displaced debris in the North Pacific Gyre. For example, today we found a fishing weight with Chinese characters. We also found plastic detergent bottles, bottle caps, lids, netting, plastic bags, a baseball, and other miscellaneous large pieces of plastic floating in the expansive ocean. Below our humble abode, S/V Kaisei, is 18,000 feet of water (6,000 meters); outside a portal window is one plastic bottle more than 1,000 nautical miles (~1,850 km) from the nearest coastline. The image is alarming, and PKST is uncovering evidence of the progression of marine debris as it breaks down to the insidious small particulates accumulating in our trawls. The combination of polymers the ocean has not been able to biodegrade, possible toxicity of small to nano-sized particles, and attachment of persistent toxic chemicals to these surfaces is a forecast of a frightening future. We are seeing that the ocean is full of this ubiquitous waste, clogging and tangling our blue planet.