Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 7, Sunday 9/13/09
Within an hour of setting our fishing poles last evening, we caught a five footer. Not a fish, but plastic fishing rope. Over the past 10 years, AMRF has been finding more and more plastic pollution, like the polymer rope, on the end of their fishing lines when out in the Pacific. The fishing was over by dark with only the plastic catch to show for it, but we did catch some wind that crept up to 16 knots yesterday. It peaked at 1800 hours, but then steadily dropped off. This segues into my morning watch. I promise not to bring up my morning watch again for awhile, but this is important.

Orion, who was at the aft of the ship yesterday morning, was now back on my starboard side which means we changed directions again. The reason why we’ve been jockeying around is to get into a specific location. I will tell you more about that tomorrow. Anyway, I hadn’t worked my shift but 20 minutes when the captain showed up. What brought him to the bridge was the wind slapping time against the near listless sails. I had pointed the ship five degrees into the wind portside after Gwen had added 10 degrees just before my shift started. But it was mute; the sails had to come down. I stepped out into the early morning air and the ocean was like a lake. Sea state one - the ocean was like an antique glass pane with subtle ripples. The night so quiet the only thing I could hear was whining rope lines and the occasional slamming sails. But after letting down the genoa and main sails, they were gone too.

Because it was so calm, it made for a great day to trawl and so we did starting at 0500. We are not in the Garbage Patch yet, but today you might have thought we were. We were running two trawls at a time and each time the trawls came in with ample of plastics particles that rivaled the natural organisms that should be there. We ran three sets of two running trawls, each for one hour. Here are two of the samples we collected;

After receiving a request to try to take a picture of the plastic bits floating past the ship, I decided an easier way might be to catch the pieces because taking a picture would be extremely difficult with the ship moving and the pieces randomly floating across a 25’ wide bow. Using a small net, not much bigger than my hand, I set the timer for 10 minutes and started plucking. It was not trivial and the first five minutes there was a huge learning curve. To an onlooker, it must have looked like a possessed pole. It had more control than I did. But by the time I was finished, I collected 22 pieces of plastic fragments! But the ones I missed were easily 10 fold than what I caught. (See first picture.)As I had mentioned earlier, we are on a mission to get to a location so by 1300 hours we were cruising at close to 10 knots engine power. Most of us sat on the bow enjoying the perfect 80o weather with blue skies and speed-bump-free waters while looking for plastics. If it came by the ship close enough, we would try to scoop it out. All kinds of stuff floated by that were too far for our nets to reach - buoys, bottles, crates, Styrofoam chunks, fishing gear, jugs, and large broken fragments. After several attempts, Bill decided to give it up until he saw a blue 10 gallon bucket labeled corrosive coming right for us. He patiently waited for it gently flow into his net and then gave it a yank.. That’s when we realized it was heavy because it almost pulled him over the rail.But the mother load of plastic catching today was a 55 gallon drum made out of plastic. This one required the A frame. But before we took it out, Lindsey, Jeff, the captain and I jumped in. We snorkeled with the fish that were both under it and inside of it. The captain and Jeff stayed in to lasso the drum and guide it in while Gwen steered the boat, Lindsey and Bill managed the line and I ran the winch. Once it was finally on deck, we all got a laugh when we realized nine fish were still inside of it.
More later, Bonnie

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