Dale Selvam Reports on Plastic Pollution in the Pacific Ocean

Posted by — July 17, 2011 9:20 am

Dale Selvam snaps an underwater photo of a tangled mess of plastic in Pacific Ocean.

We are very privileged to have a guest blogger this week:  Dale John Selvam is out on the Pacific Ocean aboard the Sea Dragon, the wonderful sea going vessel that is devoted to plastic debris research.  This is the same vessel that Andy Keller spent 6 weeks sailing through the South Pacific Gyre as part of the 5Gyres Exploration.  Dale’s descriptions of  the amount of plastic  being found are both enlightening and disturbing.  More posts to come, but please read this first installment:
“At what point does marine conservation become fun?
When you mix an eclectic group of 13 people from 7 countries and 4 continents in a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, reach the centre of the high pressure, go for a swim in the name of science in 5000 meters of water, a random buoy covered in barnacles, throw in some tubes of Korean hot sauce and a Gorilla!
OK,  Markus Eriksen, Algalita Scientist, did a beach cleanup in Kahuku beach, Oahu, Hawaii and found of all things a little plastic gorilla. Karen our resident artist/musician did  a presentation using the Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach (even Mega Successful Bands are concerned). As we were trawling 1272 miles out of Hawaii we pulled up a little Plastic Gorilla, some kid’s toy! Where did that come from?
In the last few trawls we’ve found buttons, toothbrushes, bottle tops, confetti size pieces of plastic, lumps of Styrofoam, spray nozzle, bits of crates, plastic pellets(nurdles) & un-identified bits and pieces. We’ve hauled out buckets, buoys (lots), crates, lumps of rubber flooring, nets, ropes, and seen float by a myriad of junk. The big bits are random. The plastic soup is pretty much constant. No floating island, but yes out here so far from land we are seeing literally tons of plastic. Bummer.

Attached to this floating cornucopia of crap we’ve preserved in jars for later POPs  analysis (persistent organic pollutants), goose neck barnacles (planes’), segmented worms (polychaete), shrimp like crustaceans (isopod & amphipod) by the wind sailors (velella) and even a crusty oyster. That’s not supposed to be here, they live on the coast.

We had a visit today from a Leaches’ Storm Petrel. He landed in the cockpit and couldn’t take off again so I gently picked him up; the bird totally relaxed in my hands, the feathers so beautifully soft, quick launch and away he went, happy.  In the calm of the high we found a large buoy covered in barnacles, so Mr. Jin and myself donned dive gear and went for a little dive- 5000m below was the ocean floor- 20 meters down – surreal, deep aquamarine blue water, beautiful tiny creatures, little spots of glowing light joining together to form little disco balls, long stringy glowing wormlike creatures ,the ocean so alive, beauty personified and yet down deeper – PLASTIC floating by,aaaargh. Why ruin perfection?
We have a six o’clock slot each day where we share our experiences and discuss issues. Usual question; what can we do to make a difference?  So, this week your mission is to;  Collect and keep, just for one week ALL the plastic you use, packaging , bottles ,whatever. Just check it out, don’t cheat. I’m watching. And at the end of the week ask yourself if you really did need to use all that and how could you reduce it. I’ll be interested to see how you go.

Oh yeah, that Korean Hot Sauce is incredible!”

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