The sea gave us a gift yesterday, a crystal blue sky with glassy flat azure water that reflected the suns rays into the depths. We gathered on the front deck and gazed down expecting to catch a glimpse of some ancient sea creature gliding under Laysan. I have always heard of the mirrored sea days, but I had never experienced one until yesterday. Perhaps just as momentous, yesterday was our half way point, no turning back now. We celebrated by cooking vegetarian curry and rice and watched the sun sink into a stupendous orange horizon. That evening while I was on watch, I witnessed a second spectacular moment when a pale quarter moon rose out of a sea sparkling with bio-luminescence into a black sky filled with stars. All very poetic and lovely.
However, today is a different story. I awoke to a bad pounding rolling experience, the kind that makes me cling gibbon monkey like to my bed. A low pressure area was moving in from the west doing its level best to destroy the placid waters of yesterday. Grey clouds hung low, squalls lined up against us, the ocean took on a hue of prison drab, and the waves struck us a beam. For the first time on the trip, we had to deploy the paravanes in order to maintain some level of comfort from the incessant side to side rolling. The four of us sat glumly nursing our granola and tea wondering what happened to the nirvana of yesterday.
For the first time since we had reached the Ocean Cleanup zone, we did not send out the Mega Monster for its collection of plastic; too treacherous on the cockpit. While one might think we were relieved to be out of a chore, we actually missed the daily routine of the three trawls. Every afternoon, someone takes the wheel while the other three dress in life jackets and old salty clothes and convene on the cockpit. Everyone has their job, Naomi or John handle the 150′ rope that deploys and retrieves the Mega, Sarah clips and unclips the Mega from the pulley lines and makes sure the Mega is upright at deployment, I retrieve the netting and cod-end (the mesh net piece that collects the sample) and try to keep the Mega from bashing into the back of Laysan. Once the cod-end is brought aboard we all gather around to inspect our collection. Each trawl collects some marine life, small crabs, tiny fish, plankton, water bugs, squid but most astonishingly, each trawl collects plastic. Keep in mind we are 1,200 miles from Oahu and 900 miles from the west coast and the sea is full of plastic bits. Every single trawl, we collect a cod full of plastic fragments; the enormous amount of plastic that must be in the ocean is inconceivable and sobering. In addition to the small fragments, we witness a constant stream of debris floating by Laysan; buoys, netting, shoes, bottles, bags, crates, fenders, fishing floats….to realize that the sea is full of this garbage is disheartening. Check out the Ocean Cleanup website or Facebook page and show your support for this group’s Herculean effort to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. Also of interest is a link to the Mega Expedition which shows the location of all the boats participating in the research. Laysan was the first to reach the designated area and you should be able to see our path as we near the northern edge of the research area. http://yb.tl/oceancleanup
Well, the seas have lightened up, maybe we will have time for another trawl after all! Where are my salty clothes?