WRITTEN BY YANIKA BORG
ON LEG TWO FROM AZORES TO ANTIGUA WITH COPERNICUS MARINE SERVICE

 

Hi everyone, Yanika here.

Today dawned a gorgeous day in the Atlantic – warm sunshine, slight breeze, calm seas. I was especially and ridiculously happy because I woke up with an appetite and with lots of energy after two days of dragging my body around with sea sickness.

The Leg 2 team is now fully assembled. Let’s go.

Today was a big day for us because we are now in the North Atlantic Garbage Gyre. This was one of the main objectives of Leg 2. So in the afternoon we doubled down on science. 

What gyre?

Looking around you, you wouldn’t really guess that you are in this dense patch of garbage. The sea was a vivid blue. This was a far cry from the “island of plastic” we are sometimes led to believe is the gyre, but the findings from our experiment tell a different story. 

Death by a thousand cuts

Analysing findings from today’s two Manta Trawls, we found c. 70 pieces of micro-plastic within each trawl. This might seem like a low number but for me this only highlights the scale of the problem we are facing. First of all, within just 30 minutes and around 1 mile we found 70 pieces! Multiply that by the size of the surface of the ocean and it stops looking like an insignificant number. Secondly, if you had an island of plastic, you could locate it and deal with it much more easily than all these tiny anonymous pieces of plastic. How do you go about cleaning the ocean? How do you go about nitpicking these microplastics? How do you prevent them getting into the food chain? These pieces are so small that they could easily be ingested by small fish, which are in turn eaten by larger fish, and so on it goes.

Do fish use forks to eat their dinner?

Of the more interesting things we found was a plastic fork. That was plain frustrating. How did it end up there? We also found a nurdle, which are little pellets which are melted down to make plastic. For example, you need c. 660 pellets to make a small plastic bottle. Again, how did that pellet of “raw” plastic end up there? Which current dragged it from a factory output or a container to this spot?

eXXpedition

It’s an incredible experience to be out here in the blue, but an experience which has certainly got us all thinking…….