E-Mails From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

On June 10, 2009 Captain Charles Moore set off on Algalita"s Oceanographic Research Vessel for the first leg of a four month expedition from California to past the Northern Hawaiian Islands to test for plastic marine debris.

Captain Moore discovered the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, known as the the Pacific Gyre, and he is continuing his research to help all of us understand that the rapid rise in global plastic production is leading to a rise in plastic pollution and its devastating effects on our oceans and our lives.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting emails directly from Captain Moore so we can follow his journey and better understand what we are doing to our oceans.

Here's the first:

June 13, 2009

Day 3

Noon position: 29˚46min38secs N and 121˚53min27secs W

Greetings from the ORV Alguita!

In the past 24hrs, we have had our first series of debris encounters. While taking in our fishing lines for the night, we dragged in our first piece of debris; a deflated green balloon with the string still attached. It was a little disheartening to discover that we were fishing for trash instead of fish.

Last night at around 10pm, we passed the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). For those of you who are wondering what that means, we are now officially out of the US waters, in what is essentially the no-man's land of the Pacific. Because this area is out of US jurisdiction, it is not a top priority in terms of government funded research.

We were greeted in the morning with another debris sighting. We found a plastic water bottle which likely originated from Russia (the cap had Russian text). It had been afloat in the ocean just long enough for fouling organisms (i.e. tiny baby gooseneck barnacles) to latch on. Our next trash sighting, roughly 300 miles out to sea, was a tangle of fouled line and buoys. In addition to gooseneck barnacles making their home inside the floating mess, we found several
pelagic crabs and a couple different of invertebrates. After weighing the mass of rubbish (9 kilos) we preserved a sample of the debris with the critters that we found living on it for Miriam Goldstein, a doctoral candidate at SCRIPPS, who is studying the fouling organisms that live on pelagic trash. The last two pieces of trash found today were a Monarch brand
garlic-salt container and a plastic napkin or towel floating on the surface. These finds are indicators that we are making our way into the heart of trash accumulation.

As far as wildlife sightings go, we had a pod of Common Dolphins passing us on portside. We also spotted several Velella velella, also known as the By-the-wind sailors, which is an awesome little sea creature that has a small oval sail so it can use the winds to travel the seas.

Best Wishes from the Captain and crew