Published

Story: Dissecting the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

In the science section of the New York Times November 10th, 2009 you'll find a story from Lindsey Hoshaw on the Pacific Garbage Patch. This story was partly funded by the Spot.Us community and is credited as such.

ABOARD THE ALGUITA, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii — In this remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement.

Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.

Read more NY Times: Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash

Also see the accomanying photo slide show.

This is the culmination of the last four months of work from Lindsey. But it is not exhaustive. For the very interested reader.

External Links

 

[These posts are coming in via email from Lindsey and being posted by Spot.Us whose community helped fund Lindsey's trip. The originals are from Lindsey Hoshaw's personal blog]

The homecoming (a belated post)

WelcomeHomeCRew

As quickly as it started, the garbage patch voyage draws to a close. On Tuesday October 6th we arrived in Long Beach. Bill, Bonnie, Jeff and I stood on the bow as we neared the dock, and what sight greeted our eyes but hundreds of pieces of plastic? We watched plastic water bottles, a Capri Sun container, an empty bag of potato chips and a plastic shopping bag float beneath the ship.

We've landed

Today around 5pm we docked at Catalina Island and we were all, needless to say, ecstatic! The site of dry land brought a smile to my face and after three days of cloudy weather we spent nearly the entire day on the bow in the sun. After we anchored, we stepped on solid ground for the first time and I nearly fell over from “dock rock.”

Flying squid and jumping Mahi

For the past three days we’ve caught Mahi Mahi every morning. And we’ve been graced by the presence of several squid, which have jumped on board, that we’ve conveniently used as bait. It seems they jump on board to escape predators, though they don’t know their fate may be even worse when they hop on this boat.

Barren Bouys

Bonnie blogged about it and yet the very next day Bill yelled from the bow that he’d caught a buoy covered in barnacles. This, said Moore, is what he’d expected to see during this voyage, and yet, this buoy is the only one of it’s kind. Since then we haven’t seen any other buoys coated in barnacles. Bill catches a barnacle-covered buoy It just adds to the mystery of the garbage patch-which organisms will thrive and which will perish? The answer certainly seems to be fluid.

Homeward bound

It’s a strange feeling knowing that this journey is drawing to a close. As we head toward Long Beach, we’ve all started thinking about what we’ll do when we get back.

This is what?

From the ship, a windrow looks like a long streak of calm water. If there’s trash in the water column, the windrow will be littered with debris. It’s like one long polluted river amidst the ocean waves. The crew was always excited to see a windrow because it meant they could collect several fragments at once.

The creatures in the night

In reality we simply don’t know what they are. But every single sample has come back with plastic fragments. And so, when the last manta trawl was completed today at 4am, it became apparent that there is still just as much plastic in the garbage patch as there was ten years ago. Moore believes there’s more plastic now than in ‘99 and after Gwen counts all of the plastic samples back in the lab, we’ll know for sure. It’s a sad state of affairs that we’ve seen just as much plastic as fish or plankton. I’ve definitely seen more plastic than fish on this trip, which in the middle of the ocean is tragic. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw

Garbage Patch FAQ's

Q. Is it dense enough to constitute an island? A. Nope, not even close. The majority of the debris is small plastic fragments the size of rice. When you stand on the bow of the ship you can’t see these fragments because they’re too small and are often below the surface. And with the reflection of the water and how fast the ship is moving it’s difficult to see anything floating by unless it’s at least the size of a pea. And four other frequently asked questions.

We've reached the Garbage Patch!

We’ve finally made it! After days of waiting to hit the convergence zone of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre we’ve finally arrived. And how did the morning start? I woke up and saw an oversized light bulb floating by the bow. Unbelievable.

Watching the world pass by, one toilet seat at a time

Just when you think it’ going to be an average day, you catch a fish, swim through an ocean of trash and the engine stalls. If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, Bonnie also found half a toilet seat, Jeff spotted another 55-gallon barrel with fish living inside and Moore, Jeff and I pulled an 80lb. tangle of rope on board. Bonnie and the broken toilet seat she found this morning (Photo by Jeff Ernst)

About the Photos

In the name of transparency, I’m going to tell you why I have been a little miserly with my photos. Because the pictures I take may be published in The New York Times, I have agreed to save the “best” photos for them. Science Editor Laura Chang said as long as the photos I post on the blog are not the same ones I’ll submit to the Times, we’re ok.

The "dust bunny" unraveled

It looks like we have a large hairball sitting on our bow. It’s what oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer would refer to as a giant dust bunny, (really an enormous tangle of rope and fishing nets). Most of the material in this mass is abandoned fishing gear that has a way of finding other net and knitting together.

What trash looks like tangled in the ocean

This is the tangle of rope/nets and the fish that ate my hair. Photo Lindsey Hoshaw

The mystery guests remain a mystery

This morning we were up cleaning the cabin for the Billabong seaplane crew, which was to arrive today. And they did-for a moment. But as the plane neared the water and touched down, it quickly bounced back up. The Billabong seaplane just as it touches the water before bouncing up again. Photo Lindsey Hoshaw The Billabong seaplane just as it touches the water before bouncing up again. Photo Lindsey Hoshaw

The mystery guests

We’re preparing for visitors. And who, exactly, are these guests? Great question. We’re not entirely sure. For the past four months Mike Prickett of Prickett Films has been planning a trip out to the garbage patch to meet up with Moore’s ship the Alguita (which we’re on). He wants to fly out on the Billabong seaplane; I’m told it’s well known in the surfing community. So the date has been set-for tomorrow. Prickett will fly out with a plane full of celebrities who are environmentally concerned and can bring attention to plastic pollution in the ocean. It’s part of a plan to turn Prickett’s visit into grist for a movie about plastic in the ocean. The script he’s sent Captain Moore reads:

At a small airport in Hawaii a seaplane sits on the runway making final preparations for flight. Destined for a target offshore in the Pacific Ocean, is a group of planet caring souls, from athletes to artists, boarding and packing the aircraft. Individually they have all heard of this “Garbage Island” and have different levels of education on what exists out there. Each of them are anxious to witness firsthand what it is all about.

So we’re expecting company and no one knows who will step off the plane tomorrow. Stay tuned…

Floating in the plastic sea

Yesterday Captain Moore took out a motorboat to search for more plastic debris. His search yielded a caulking tube with a trigger fish living inside and a hairbrush surrounded by two Hawaiian sergeant fish. Both had algae and small barnacles growing on the outside. Rick McCourt, of Pennsylvania, recently wrote a blog comment asking whether the fish we’re seeing around all the debris are reef fish, meaning they usually live near coral reefs. And Gwen, the director of lab research for Algalita, says yes. The floating plastic looks like a reef to the fish and they follow it, sometimes for miles away from their natural habitats. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and one that, according to the Algalita crew, hasn’t been studied much. So let’s count, how many pieces of plastic has the crew collected since we’ve been out here? Over 20 large pieces of trash, with everything from an empty 55 gallon barrel to a caulking tube. And these are just the big things. The amount of small plastic fragments is countless. Also, we haven’t even reached the garbage patch. Captain Moore says we still have a week until we reach the patch! It’s truly astounding. A hairbrush found in the ocean. Photo by by Jeff Ernst.

A hairbrush found in the ocean. Photo by by Jeff Ernst.

Catch and Release

It’s been an action-packed morning. Last night Captain Moore tied up all of the debris he’d found to the front of the ship but this morning we woke up to rough seas and he spotted something floating off the back of the ship. Well, three floating somethings-broken bits from the yellow plastic crate we’d tied up. With all of the wind, the crate smashed against the other tied up buoys and splintered apart. Moore, Jeff and I headed to the bow to check on the collection of debris. It was all still there, except for the crate. Then something appeared to be wrong with the sea anchor. Moore could feel the boat drifting and the position of the buoy above the anchor had changed. Jeff, Moore and I started reeling in the anchor and soon found that the rope had snapped apart. Luckily there was an extra rope we could use to pull the anchor in. After the anchor was on board, we tied on a new rope and threw it back in the water but it quickly got tangled up in the floating buoys. Then Captain Moore and Jeff argued over how to free up the debris. Jeff ended up jumping in the water and untying everything by hand, after which he hopped into the motorboat which was loosely tied to the ship and bouncing around. Two hours and a lot of hard work later, we’d secured everything. It was only 12pm, who knows what awaits during the rest of the day…

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Getting my sea legs

Well, I’ve officially been at sea for a week now. So much has happened:

  • The crew has found plastic in every single sample of seawater they’ve taken
  • Jeff caught our first fish-a 27” Mahi Mahi
  • I’ve been able to take underwater photographs of a floating yellow crate from Korea and a 55 gallon plastic barrel
  • The crew has retrieved over ten different abandoned buoys of all shapes and sizes
  • I interviewed Moore about the trip and what he hopes will happen to the garbage patch in the future, (will include comments from the interview in future posts).
  • We lost a flow meter (the flow meter is attached to the manta trawl and measures how much water the manta samples)
  • Bonnie started fishing for plastic with a net from the bow. In ten minutes she found a handful of tiny plastic pieces.

An exciting Sunday afternoon

We caught a barrel full of fish! Jeff spotted a large plastic barrel floating off the port side of the boat. Initially the crew thought they’d just reel it in, but after seeing how big it is-the size of an oil drum-they decided Bonnie and I had better get in and take photos/video before they lugged it on board. I’ve gotten used to jumping in with my clothes on, so I dove in, underwater camera in hand. It was pretty incredible to see this barrel floating underwater, especially since one end was open. Inside were about nine fish and they stayed put as Captain Moore and Jeff tied a rope around the barrel and got Bill to heave it on board.

Jeff and Bill hauling a plastic barrel full of fish on board, a first for the crew. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw

Jeff and Bill hauling a plastic barrel full of fish on board, a first for the crew. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw Captain Moore was pretty excited; the crew has never hauled a 55 gallon drum full of fish on board before. The outside of the barrel is covered in green algae and hundreds of barnacles. Gwen took out five of the fish and put them in a smaller bucket without water before wrapping them in tinfoil, labeling them and sticking them in the freezer. Back at the Long Beach lab she’ll see if they have any chemicals in their tissues. fish in a bucket

Some of the fish that were in the floating barrel. Gwen transported them to this empty bucket and one of them was still flipping around. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw Well, it’s nearing the end of the day. I’m off to sit on the bow for a few minutes and watch the sunset, before getting back to work.

FAQS about life on the Alguita

As I’m new to the world of long-term sailing, and I imagine many of you are, I decided to put together a frequently asked questions list. It’s compiled from actual questions people asked me before I left and questions I had leading up to the trip (which I now have the answers to). Do you get seasick? Nope, and thankfully neither does any of the other crewmembers. We’re the first group Captain Moore has taken out that hasn’t gotten sick. What do you eat? Contrary to my prior beliefs, we’re not eating beans and corn out of a can every night. The galley (kitchen) is well stocked with everyday spices, exotic fruit, fresh Mahi Mahi caught by Captain Moore and my favorite-farmed sea asparagus. A few of the meals we’ve had include tostadas and quesadillas, Thai eggplant with lettuce wraps, BLATs (A=avocado) and of course, fish tacos. We keep everything cool in a small fridge, a cooler and an oversized freezer. Jeff making a salad and Bonnie looking on. We made a lot of salads the first week while we still had plenty of fresh produce. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw

Jeff making a salad and Bonnie looking on. We made a lot of salads the first week while we still had plenty of fresh produce. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw What type of ship are you on? A 50-foot aluminum catamaran. Moore’s ship was designed by Australian ship maker Locke Crowther, and it’s hull (the body) is completely unique. How do you go to the bathroom? We have a head (toilet) on board, and in the same “room” (more like a tiny box), there is also a sink and a shower head. The bathroom is just big enough to turn around in and couldn’t fit more than two people. When you shower everything ends up getting wet, so you have to be creative about tying your towel and clothes to one of the handlebars near the roof. Also-during rough seas taking a shower becomes quite difficult. Standing up is hard enough and trying to undress, hold onto the railing and shampoo becomes an acrobatic feat! The head (toilet); the tie on the left hand size comes undone and a plastic “door” unrolls that you can zip up when showering. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw

The head (toilet); the tie on the left hand size comes undone and a plastic “door” unrolls that you can zip up when showering. Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw How do you get fresh water? There’s a desalinator on board that works through reverse osmosis. Yeah, I kind of get it; luckily Bill Cooper is a chemist and explained the whole process. In any case, we have fresh water to drink and for our showers. What’s it like to live on a ship for three weeks? Incredible. Growing up in the Arizona desert, I didn’t have much water experience before I came on this trip. I think the best I’d ever done was a few sailing classes at a sleep away camp in Minnesota when I was a kid. But the views out here are absolutely incredible. I get to see the sunset every evening, dive with Mahi Mahi and watch the changing ocean colors-from bright cobalt blue on sunny days to light silver when it rains. And I get to learn from the Captain and Jeff about what it means to be a good sailor. And of course, I’m learning all I could ever want to know first hand about the garbage patch. This truly is a reporter’s dream: being able to meet and live with the person who discovered the garbage patch and then see it first hand. Do you swim in the water/are there any sharks/have you seen any? Yes; possibly; no. A lot of people expressed concern about sharks but I really think this is fueled more by horror films and the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week than by any real experience with deep water diving. During almost every dive we see absolutely nothing but clear blue water. And I mean nothing. You may be wondering, “but then, where is all the trash?” Well, we haven’t reached the garbage patch yet and most of the trash out here is tiny-the size of corn kernels, so we can’t see much of it. Hope this answers most questions! My bunk! This is where I sleep (and toss and turn during rough seas). Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw.

My bunk! This is where I sleep (and toss and turn during rough seas). Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw.

A Quiet Saturday Morning

Ahhh, the leisure of a Saturday morning, reading the paper while sipping a cup of coffee. Ok, I don’t exactly drink coffee and the most recent newspaper we have is a September 5th edition of The Wall Street Journal, but still. When I woke up this morning almost everyone had slept in and Bill and Bonnie were happily keeping watch at the helm. There were no shouts about plastic pollution or scrambling to grab camera and gear to take photos on the fly. Just a quiet morning putting up the sails and closing down the hatch as a rainstorm moved in. It’s amazing to see the spikes of rain hitting the waves and the drops rolling off the windows. There’s something inherently soothing about being on a ship in the rain. There are so many nooks and crannies to nestle in and the bunks have just enough room where you can curl up with a book and read to the light of your headlamp. This afternoon I’ll type up my first draft of an article about the garbage patch and try to capture some audio for the upcoming slideshow. I have an enormous amount of notes and numerous background articles. What better day to pull it all together than our first “day off”? me on top of the boat

All The Way From Korea

Well, the floating piece of plastic I mentioned in my last post turned out to be a yellow crate with Korean writing on it. I heard Bill yelling about it just as I was sitting in the galley about to update the blog. As soon as I heard, “we’ve found something,” I ran onto the stern and realized it was time to gear up. I grabbed my camera, put it in the underwater housing and suited up with my snorkel, fins, weight belt and mask. Bill hopped in with his video camera and I eased in with my camera and it’s underwater housing. It was so incredible to see the crate underwater. Millions of tiny barnacles were stuck on every inch and a school of tropical fish swam underneath. There was a white fish with a thick black line across it’s eye and a greenish yellow fish and another black fish with white polka-dots. Anywhere the crate went the fish followed-just like the rope we found yesterday. A basket that was found in the middle of the Ocean near the Pacific Garbage Patch. Photo by Jeff Ernst

A basket that was found in the middle of the Ocean near the Pacific Garbage Patch. Photo by Jeff Ernst Bill was fascinated by the fish and captured footage of the school swimming in and out of the crate, which hovered near the surface. I left myself sink down, took a few photos and then swam back up for air. After half an hour I was exhausted. Keeping myself from sinking had been more draining than I thought. Moore and Jeff dove in after Bill and I got out and caught the fish that were in the crate before bringing them onboard. Gwen dumped them into a bucket and then took them out one by one to measure them, seal them in tinfoil and pack them up for the lab. Once she’s back in Long Beach she will cut them open to see if they’ve consumed any plastic particles.

Gwen dumped them into a bucket and then took them out one by one to measure them, seal them in tinfoil and pack them up for the lab. Once she’s back in Long Beach she will cut them open to see if they’ve consumed any plastic particles. Photo by Jeff Ernst

 

Gwen dumped them into a bucket and then took them out one by one to measure them, seal them in tinfoil and pack them up for the lab. Once she’s back in Long Beach she will cut them open to see if they’ve consumed any plastic particles. Photo by Jeff Ernst It was an exciting day. We’re hoping for another great day tomorrow as we idle in calm winds and still waters waiting to see more garbage.

We meet the Portuguese Man O’wars

I was awoken, again this morning, by the sound of Captain Moore shouting about a buoy he’d seen a few hundred miles in front of the ship. Bill was on watch, upbeat and alert, always excited to be on “plastic patrol” as he calls it-looking through the window at the helm searching for debris in the distance. Moore snatched up the floating buoy in a large net and observed that bird feces on one side indicated it’d been used as a floating perch. Half of it’s white exterior was also covered in green algae and gooseneck barnacles. After snapping a few photos I put it on top of the other “loot,” but the buoy collection is piling up quickly. In just two days Moore has found nine buoys. And today the crew collected the first round of plastic bottles-three separate water bottles, some with algae and barnacles growing on them. One opaque plastic bottle has bite marks out of it and looks like it’s been attacked by a group of hungry sharks. (This is highly unlikely but the jagged bite marks immediately conjure images of Jaws). During the afternoon we took a quick swim. As we near our destination the ocean becomes calmer and calmer since the garbage patch is located in an area of low winds. The entire Pacific is starting to look like a giant piece of glass. Bonnie and Bill tried out their underwater video camera and I practiced free diving with my camera and a weight belt. It takes at least 10 pounds to keep me from bobbing like an apple at the surface. But our afternoon swim quickly ended when Bonnie started yelling and swam for the boat. Bill was right alongside her and, of course, with thought of sharks circling in my head I looked all around to see if I could spot anything. Nothing but deep blue water. I soon realized what she was startled by when I felt a sharp sing on my hand. I yelped too and swam for the boat. Apparently we’d all been stung by Portuguese man o’wars. My welts soon disappeared but Bonnie had a thin line on her back and under her arm where the man o’war’s tentacle had wrapped around her.

A Man O'War Sting while out in the Ocean. photo by Jeff Ernst

A Man O'War Sting while out in the Ocean. photo by Jeff Ernst Yikes! Bill is shouting from the bow right now-apparently Jeff has seen more floating plastic. Got to run!

Borderlands: The Crew Finds Pollution Before Reaching the Garbage Patch

I woke up to the sound of Captain Moore shouting from out on the stern. The first thing I did? Grabbed my camera. He’d spotted a floating buoy off the starboard side of the boat-the first large piece of plastic pollution we’ve seen on the trip. It came closer as Gwen steered the ship and Moore scooped it up with a pool-like mesh skimmer. buoy

It was covered with algae and small gooseneck barnacles. Some of them even opened up after they’d been on board for a few minutes. Their brownish-purple “tentacles” came out of small white shells. We haven’t even reached the garbage patch yet so Captain Moore was surprised we found anything this far south. Especially since in the next hour the crew spotted three more floating buoys. One of them had Chinese writing on it, well, Chinese words spelled out in English. Captain Moore thinks this means it’s from Taiwan-he suspects that Chinese fisherman wouldn’t bother translating into English. During the afternoon we hopped into the water; I dove in equipped with my underwater camera and I furiously began taking photos of a large rope that was floating by. There were over fifty golden rudder fish swimming around the rope. Jeff tells me that the rope provides a habitat for the fish, it keeps them protected from the sun and other predators and the algae on the rope is their food. They did not want to let it go!

everyone diving

As Jeff dragged the rope toward the ship they furiously swam alongside it. They kept up the entire time until he hauled the rope up onto the boat. Not to worry though. Captain Moore has decided we’ll “hang out” in the gyre for a while and put the rope back in the water to see what type of creatures it attracts. He’s thinking more rudder fish, I’m hoping Mahi Mahi. buoys and rope

Under a Brilliant Sky

As soon as I woke up and stumbled into the galley (the kitchen) I saw Captain Moore out on the stern untangling the Mantra Trawl to take the first ocean samples. The Mantra Trawl was built especially for Moore and looks exactly like a mantra ray-with aluminum rectangles for wings, a wide open aluminum cage for a mouth and a long cylinder of mesh dragging behind that looks like a tail. The mesh catches anything in its path and the 1/3mm mesh is small enough to catch plankton and tiny pieces of plastic. Jeff lugged the manta into the water and slowly let out the two ropes that secured it to the stern. About an hour later, it was time to pull it in. He hauled the manta out onto the deck and Captain Moore unscrewed the end of the tail where all the debris gets caught. Over a glass bowl he turned the mesh inside out and sprayed it down with a plastic bottled filled with seawater. The plankton and plastic dripped down into the bowl, which was soon filled with salps and tiny jellyfish and a few pieces of plastic. Captain Moore rinsing down the small pieces of debris caught in his Mantra Trawl; the first sampling of the trip Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw. The pieces were so tiny, if you weren’t looking for them you’d miss them. They were smaller than grains of rice. The three pieces I immediately saw in the bowl were blue, green and white. Who knows how many more there were; Moore and his crew won’t know until they process the samples in their lab. The rest of the day we went for a swim and the water is so amazingly clear-you could see down for probably 100 feet. But there is nothing much to see. The plankton and plastic are so tiny right now, that all you see is clear cobalt blue water. Everyone swimming

Of Flying Fish, A Masked Booby and Banana Bread

How do you stay awake from 10pm-2am during your first night watch? Coffee from the French press, 10,000 songs from iTunes and lots of conversation. Jeff and I stayed awake for the late shift last night to make sure the Alguita didn’t hit any oncoming boats, that the wind hadn’t changed directions and that the motors didn’t malfunction.

Me at the helm steering the boat and filling out the log during the 10am-2pm shift Me at the helm steering the boat and filling out the log during the 10am-2pm shift

Captain Moore rinsing down the small pieces of debris caught in his Mantra Trawl; the first sampling of the trip Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw. And this evening while having dinner on the bow as the sun set I realized why Moore felt so passionate about saving the ocean. The natural beauty is overwhelming. Under a deep blue-black night sky I could see hundreds of stars. I’m inside the ship now with the hatch open, slowly falling asleep to a luminescent night sky. And this evening while having dinner on the bow as the sun set I realized why Moore felt so passionate about saving the ocean. The natural beauty is overwhelming. Under a deep blue-black night sky I could see hundreds of stars. I’m inside the ship now with the hatch open, slowly falling asleep to a luminescent night sky. We talked about everything imaginable-what it’s like working for Captain Moore, how Jeff ended up on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and why he thinks cleaning up the garbage patch is impossible (more on this later). The four hours passed slowly and I had a minor bout of anxiety when I looked down at my phone and saw the words “no service.” No phone calls, no email, no Twitter for nearly a month. Though I will, because of behind the scenes assistance from Spot.Us, be able to blog. While I was lamenting the virtual death of my cell phone Jeff tapped my shoulder and pointed through the front window to a masked booby that landed on the front of the ship’s railing. He stayed there all night and into the morning catching a ride to calmer seas.

leaving Oahu

A view from the stern; Oahu fading into the distance During this time we rounded Oahu from the west and traveled north past Kauai. The ship’s computer showed us as a tiny chartreuse speck sailing through the Hawaiian Islands.

computer map

The computer program we use to see where we are in the Pacific Ocean There was more action in the morning after our shift ended when Captain Moore showed me a flying fish that landed on board. He was blue-gray and his eyes were sunk in-they’d probably dried out before we found him.

flying fish

A flying fish that landed on the ship this morning, discovered by Captain Moore While I was snapping photos of the flying fish I looked over at the dangling cluster of bananas on the stern, all 85 of them. We’d bought them green to last the entire trip but much to our dismay they’ve all ripened. Bonnie has vowed to make banana bread during her 2am-6am shift with Gwen. I just don’t have the heart to tell her that it only calls for two bananas.

Bon Voyage

Well, this is the last land-based post. We’re scheduled to depart this afternoon and we have the trade winds on our side. We’ve been doing last minute preparations–going over the mechanics of the boat, doing laundry, securing down the gear and the produce strapped on the front of the boat. Front left to right, back to front: Me (Lindsey Hoshaw), Jeff Ernst, Bill Cooper, Gwen Lattin, Captain Charles Moore and Bonnie MonteleoneFront left to right, back to front: Me (Lindsey Hoshaw), Jeff Ernst, Bill Cooper, Gwen Lattin, Captain Charles Moore and Bonnie Monteleone We’ll start our first night watches tonight–having two people stay awake in 4 hour shifts steering and watching for oncoming boats. Captain Moore assured us that last night was the last good night’s sleep we’ll have in a while. And I want to thank everyone who has supported me as I head out to sea–from Twitter followers to Spot.us donors to environmental enthusiasts, the response to this project has been overwhelming. Know that I’m thinking of you all and will Twitter and blog as much as possible while at sea. All the best, Lindsey

Scouring the Kapi’olani Farmer’s Market

This weekend I was nudged awake at 5:44am to make it out to the Kapi’olani Community College Farmer’s Market over by Diamond Head. Captain Moore, Gwen, Bonnie and I smushed into the rental truck and drove to the east side of the island to make it there before 6:30am. We were on a mission–to buy several pounds of green produce–bananas, pineapples, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, limes–that would ripen slowly over several weeks. Bonnie and Charlie looking for green tomatoes that will ripen over several weeks

Bonnie and Charlie looking for green tomatoes that will ripen over several weeks

Checking for young pineapples that will ripen while we're at sea

Checking for young pineapples that will ripen while we're at sea We scurried around to several vendors and paid for as much as we could before 7:30am when the market officially opened and we could go back to pick up our groceries. We purchased everything from the ordinary–bananas and tomatoes to the exotic–longans and breadfruit. My favorite finds were four small passion fruit and a fresh nutmeg that we bought from a citrus farmer.

A truck load of food from the Kapi'olani Community College Farmer's Market to feed six hungry crew members while at sea for three weeks

A truck load of food from the Kapi'olani Community College Farmer's Market to feed six hungry crew members while at sea for three weeks

Fresh pizza napoletana with pesto, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, some of the best I've ever had

Fresh pizza napoletana with pesto, buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil; definitely some of the best I've ever had

A Day at Sea

Jeff and Bill untying the main sail

Jeff and Bill untying the main sail

Bonnie taking footage from the bow of the boat

Bonnie taking footage from the bow of the boat Captain Moore drawing a diagram of how to put up the spinnaker (a special sail designed for use when sailing downwind)

Captain Moore drawing a diagram of how to put up the spinnaker (a special sail designed for use when sailing downwind)

Yesterday marked our first voyage out to sea. Our goal: learn how to work the sails and how to rescue passengers who had fallen overboard (don’t worry, no passengers were sacrificed for the drill). Captain Moore told us about the life vests we were to wear at night while keeping a watch and then showed us how to rescue someone using the three floatation rings on board. Thankfully, he said no one had ever gone overboard without someone being close by. I quickly learned two things. One, hold on! The waves on our way back were so severe that pots and pans, dishes and spices jars in the galley (the kitchen) were banging about. And second, sailing makes you extremely sleepy. Throughout the day Bonnie, Bill, Gwen and I battled constant drowsiness–an effect of the sun and working outside all day? By the time we got back to the dock last night, around 1am, we were all ready to crash. At least for a few hours–the next day it was time to head to the farmer’s market at 6am to load up on produce. The travails of this journey are on their way…

Introducing the crew

By mid-afternoon yesterday, I’d met the entire crew. Bill and Bonnie, a couple who split their time between North Carolina and California, flew in and we headed to NOAA to meet Carey Morishige who’s in charge of the debris recovery program. Afterward we returned to the ship, unpacked and then went out for dinner to celebrate our first night together. It’s a laid-back and amiable group, everyone willing to help out and make the journey run smoothly. So without further ado, here’s the crew!

Captain Charles Moore, founder of Algalita, the director of our ship and as you can see, a self-proclaimed tree hugger

Captain Charles Moore, founder of Algalita, the director of our ship and as you can see, a self-proclaimed tree hugger

First Mate Jeffrey Ernst, University of Hawaii (Hilo) Marine Science grad, Jeff spends his time manning the deck and sleeping in a hammock on the stern

First Mate Jeffrey Ernst, University of Hawaii (Hilo) Marine Science grad, Jeff spends his time manning the deck and sleeping in a hammock on the stern at night

Gwen Lattin, Director of Laboratory Research for Algalita, Gwen will be analyzing fish tissue samples (pending funding) from fish caught at sea with stomaches full of trash

Gwen Lattin, Director of Laboratory Research for Algalita, Gwen will be analyzing fish tissue samples (pending funding) from fish caught at sea with stomaches full of trash

Bill Cooper, Director of Urban Water Research Center, U.C. Irvine, sailing pro, former Army Captain, always smiling/life of the party

Bill Cooper, Director of Urban Water Research Center, U.C. Irvine, sailing pro, former Army Captain, dedicated optimist

Bonnie Monteleone, University of North Carolina (Wilmington) Liberal Arts graduate student, videographer and blogger extrordinaire

Bonnie Monteleone, University of North Carolina (Wilmington) Liberal Arts graduate student, videographer and blogger extrordinaire

Meet the Alguita

This morning I met first mate Jeff Ernst and got a tour of the ship. As I walked up to the Alguita a string of plastic debris lay on the dock–mainly buoys and one old tire. On the bow sits a large tangle of fishing net and rope the crew caught during their first voyage out this summer. So this is it–home for the next three weeks! The Oceanic Research Vessel (ORV) Alguita, docked at Kewalo Basin Back of the Alguita where all of the action–manta trawling (taking samples with a mesh net), scuba diving and underwater photography happens Abandoned buoys and an old tire collected from the garbage patch during a voyage earlier this summer.

 

Back of the Alguita where all of the action--manta trawling (taking samples with a mesh net), scuba diving and underwater photography happensAbandoned buoys and an old tire collected from the garbage patch during a voyage earlier this summer.The Oceanic Research Vessel (ORV) Alguita, docked at Kewalo Basin

Greetings from Oahu!

After a bumpy ride, I made it safely into Hawaii on Monday morning. I’ve spent the last two days with Stanford graduate student and Waikiki Aquarium intern Micki Ream. While Micki is at work I’ve been busy making last minute preparations for the trip–checking my equipment, reading recent articles about SEAPLEX and Project Kaisei, responding to emails and kicking off the start of the blog.

Standing on the beach in Waikiki a few blocks from where the Alguita will depart

Standing on the beach in Waikiki a few blocks from where the Alguita will depart And I’ve been talking to just about everybody about the trip. From my experience, about half the people I run into on the street seem to have no idea about the floating mass of plastic trash. The other half either vaguely know what I’m talking about or pretend to know and nod quietly as I explain the expanse of the oceanic “landfill.” One man I ran into in a coffee shop, Jerry Bush, a lithographer, suggested we get the Navy to clean it up, a woman I sat net to on the bus suggested we use the plastic pieces to soak up oil from oil spills since plastic in the ocean concentrates toxic chemicals anyway. It’s very gratifying to know that everyone has some opinion on the matter even if they’ve just learned about it. In a few hours I’m meeting with Captain Moore, the first time since I interviewed him back in March for a mini-documentary about nurdles. It will be the first of four consecutive days learning to be a member of the crew–working the sails, mastering emergency rescues and scheduling my night watches to check for oncoming boats. I’ll have full internet access until September 7th when the 50-foot aluminum catamaran Alguita sets sail, and limited access from then on. Right now I’m working on my maritime vocabulary–if anyone knows the word for neophyte sailor let me know…

Keywords

pacific garbage patch, trash,

Discussion

  •  I only wish this story were FRONT PAGE NYTIMES news!!!! I believe the headline "Nissan makes world's cheapest car" trumped the contamination of the entire Pacific Ocean!  Come on people!

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