Deputy Mission Leader Sally Earthrowl introduces us to the plastic soup the North Pacific is encountering now they have started their citizen science:
“A week into the mission means everyone has now got their sea legs and is fully on board with the purpose of our venture. To make the unseen seen. After much anticipation ‘Dr Dunkers’ and Rowan took us through the protocols for our science programme and briefed everyone on the objectives, roles and responsibilities. Having been slightly delayed by a low pressure system chasing us northwards on the edge of the gyre the day that we managed to sneak slightly east and into what is better know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was an exciting day for us and this excitement rippled through the crew as the following afternoon we managed to get our first manta trawl.
It was all hands on deck to get the boat ready for trawling. Then we had our sample of the day. Three sample jars filled with micro plastic particles. I have to say, I was speechless at how tiny and plentiful the particles were. Even though I had seen the pictures in National Geographic, the seahorse with a Q-tip in its tail, the poor turtle with a straw in its nose and even the whale, beached in Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach. Having lived in Bali I’d seen first hand the devastating impacts of marine plastic and litter on beaches and even organised beach cleans, run environmental workshops and taught about the issue in Geography lessons.
So, I expected to see plastics in the trawl as we bought it up on deck, but when I was holding those three sample jars in my hands, sat on deck as the sun set to the west, I felt overwhelmed. We have been at sea almost a week. We are yet to see anything but ocean and wildlife (and plastic debris). No passing ships. Just us. I am probably the most remote I have ever been from civilisation, and from land, and yet in those sample jars the evidence of our species was shockingly present. Tiny fragments of plastics particles and fibres. They could be yours, or mine. Yet here they are. 600 miles from Hawaii smack bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in a sample jar, in my hand. It’s true. It’s like a soup of plastic swirled together in the gyre. An environmentally devastating soup in our seas that we all need to see and be aware of. We can all make small differences in the way we live our everyday lives to reduce our plastic consumption and prevent more plastic entering our seas. As consumers we all have the power of choice.”
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The North Pacific Crew will be sending us daily updates from Sea Dragon, which will be posted here on the eXXpedition website. You will also be able to see updates from the crew and ground team throughout North Pacific on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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