Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s lesson concerns ocean pollution. A group called Ocean Cleanup headed up by a young Dutch inventor, Boyan Slat, is attempting the first of its kind cleanup of the world’s oceans. Apparently, Mr. Slat presented a Ted talk and outlined his idea for a floating ocean boom that would catch plastic bits as the sea currents passed; the collected plastic would then be taken to recycling plants for reuse. In order to get information about the Pacific gyre garbage patch, Mr. Slat organized the Mega Expedition, a plan consisting of 50 private boats traveling various paths between Hawaii and the mainland each conducting systematic trawls. The information collected wold be used to determine the location of the planned collection booms. A big idea.
Laysan volunteered to be on the expedition and we are the first boat departing Honolulu with the trawling equipment, or the Mega Monster as we like to call it. When we first volunteered for the mission, we each envisioned a small net daintily skating behind the boat collecting bits of plastic. What we were delivered was a 46 pound steel and plastic behemoth measuring 7 feet long and 4 feet tall; nothing dainty about it!
I have never mentioned the Mega before this blog entry because the likelihood of it remaining on the dock at the Ala Wai was about 85%. However, Sarah, our marine scientist, persevered and we made a carpeted hammock for the monster and lashed it down securely to the swim step. The Mega Monster set out to sea.
Yesterday, Friday, we entered the edge of the ocean area of interest to the project. Dutifully we donned life jackets, shoes and gloves to try and wrestle the monster out of its hammock and into the Pacific. We were told that this is a one man or maybe two man operation. The reality is that it is a three woman, one man activity; lifting, wenching, fending off the boat, slowing the boat….Over the course of the afternoon, we managed to complete three hour long trawls. Curiously, while the ocean appears absolutely clear and blue and clean, in each trawl net we collected tiny blue and white plastic bits mixed with miscellaneous encrusted rope and fishing line. The results surprised us all. Assuming the ocean stays relatively calm, we will continue to make daily trawls. Our traverse of the garbage patch area will probably take us 10 days and we will keep you posted as we find interesting bits in the net.
More information on the expedition can be found at http://www.theoceancleanup.co