...a pre-expedition blog from Anna Cummins
In just a few hours, Marcus, myself and our amazing new crew set sail for the 5th Subtropical Gyre, to study plastic marine pollution in an area of the world where no such research has taken. We have no idea yet what we’ll find – if this Gyre will fare better or worse than the other oceans we’ve explored – thus far, in our 20,000 plus miles across the North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, we have yet to find a gyre devoid of plastic pollution.
Our route will take us directly through the center of the accumulation zone in the South Pacific Gyre, as predicted by Dr. Nicolai Maximenko from the University of Hawaii. Maximenko’s computer simulation looks at drift buoy data to predict where the most dense region of the “accumulation zone” might be – in other words, where plastic trash is most likely to accumulate. We’ll zig zag our way through the accumulation zone, collecting surface samples to analyze in a lab.
We’ve spent the last few days in Valdivia, Chile – prepping the boat, buying 6 weeks worth of food, as our boat will continue onto Tahitia, and doing a bit of crew bonding – nothing like a beach clean up to get us thinking about the mission ahead. This, and several evenings of lively conversation over empanadas and local beer!
We have an incredible and diverse group of people on board – mostly men this time for some reason….
We have Garen Baghdasarian, professor of Marine Biology from Santa Monica College, and his wife Sara Bayles, who will be conducting a study on plastic particles and phytoplankton; Paula Alvarado, an Argentine journalist for Treehugger and Discover Latin America, who will be posting regularly for both; 3 filmmakers – Bill Bowles, Charlie Bradford, and Friedemann Hottenbacher, who will be shooting a documentary for German/French TV; Ben Lear, a musician who recently composed a Folk Opera that takes place in the mythical “island of garbage” in the North Pacific Gyre, and our intrepid crew - Skipper Clive Cosby, First Mate Dale Selvam, Second mate Jeff Ernst, and myself and my husband Marcus Eriksen, running the expedition research goals. In addition to the research, an unusual musical element seems to be emerging – on board we’ll have 3 harmonicas, a guitar, a violin, and a bag pipe.
Time for one more trip to the market to load up on fresh veggies and fruit, and we’re off! We’ll be posting regularly along the way, sharing our findings, so follow along and feel free to ask questions – we’ll answer these from sea through our blog!