April 15th, 2015
First blog from the North Atlantic Gyre – the Sargasso Sea
(Stiv Wilson reporting via Satellite phone from the North Atlantic Gyre Expedition)
The sun has set as the wind blows lightly from the the Southwest and we’re about 100 miles due west of Bermuda now. We hadn’t planned on leaving last night but we’re watching a low pressure system that is forecasting 40 knot winds to hit us later in the week and we decided to get out as fast as we could in order to maximize our time to sample for plastic. This is now my sixth expedition aboard our partnering vessel, Sea Dragon, operated by Pangaea Explorations. As always, I fall in love with Sea Dragon as land loses dimension on the horizon. Immediately, I forget about the day to day fighting plastic pollution and am reminded exactly of what we fight. We fight for the beauty of the sea. The first 12 hours was a bit rough for our crew with regard to seasickness, but by the middle of today, most everyone is feeeling better. We have such an amazingly passionate and diverse crew, offering perspectives from policy, art, the voice of youth, and industry which has made for spirited conversation aboard. Carolynn and I have been running the sampling, teaching everyone aboard to protocols for sampling ocean surface. This time, we’re doing something a little different though–beyond sampling for plastic density on the surface, we’re catching a lot of the ubiquitous seaweed that gives this sea it’s name– Sargassum.
After separating the saragassum from the plastic (which we’re finding in every sample, yet again), we’re weighing the saragassum in order to see if their is a correlation between the plastic trapped within it, compared to plastic density outside of sargassum patches. Empirically, we’ve noted that mats of sargassum tend to aggregate plastic. This is a significant issue because it means the very habitat that keeps small and juvenile creatures safe from predators could be corrupted by higher concentrations of toxic laden plastics than the ambient sea water around.
We’re steering about 310 degrees at the moment, west by northwest towards North America. The sun has set and the watch crew is drinking tea as a brilliant starry night emerges from the gloaming. The rest are settled into their bunks which is where I need to go to. Goodnight.