On The Ocean – 5

Posted by — March 30, 2011 10:03 am

The crew of the Sea Dragon enjoy a meal and a laugh

(Drifters) Trapped in the South Pacific Gyre

Day 5, and we’ve all settled into the rhythm of a life at sea – cooking, cleaning, sharing meals, waking up at all hours, sleeping, trawling, and starting all over again. The worst of seasickness has passed, as formerly ashen-faced crewmembers are now able to laugh, read, and cook – 3 tell tale signs that life is back to relative “normal”. Tonight’s dinner on deck: crab and vegetable lasagna – with fresh crab from Robinson Crusoe Island and our last green salad, accompanied by a Technicolor sunset. Life is good.

We’ve collected 4 samples so far –all remarkably free from plastic pollution, save for a few small fragments here and there. A good sign, however it’s far too early to celebrate, as we’re still a few days away from the predicted accumulation zone. The South Pacific gyre is also distinct from the other gyres we’ve surveyed – debris in the center of the gyre will remain trapped here, whereas in other ocean basis, debris is able to leave. And is even “spit out”, drifting beyond the gyres’ centers to wash up on shorelines as the current systems wobble and shift.

This model here shows the paths of drifters following the ocean currents of the South Pacific:

Map of South Pacific Gyre Current

(a) Trajectories of 57 drifters before entering the white circle in the centre of the gyre. (b) Dark grey are parts of trajectories after leaving from the circle and grey are parts of trajectories leaving from the circle and returning back into the circle again (courtesy to Maximenko (2006)).
So the fact that our trawls outside the gyre’s center are relatively clean could mean that this ocean is in fact “plastic lite”, which would be fantastic, or a sign that we just haven’t entered the predicted accumulation zone. A few days time should tell.

Aside from the science work, we’re keeping ourselves entertained. Last night, we watched an incredible film “Big in Bollywood” made by Bill Bowles, one of our filmmakers and a highly entertaining storyteller. Tonight we played a chaotic, hilarious Argentine card game called “Chancho” taught to us by Paula, our resident journalist and blogger for Treehugger – much screaming and laughter involved. Ben Lear is seldom far from his guitar, and has been playing bits and pieces of his rock opera “Lillian”, which he will soon arrange for bagpipe, violin, harmonica, and a chorus of pots and pans. This is what we love about inviting a broad cross section of people to join our expeditions. Never a dull moment.

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