CAPTAIN MOORE AND BEN LECOMPTE OF THE VORTEX SWIM TEAM (IAMOCEAN) TAKE A “BUDDY” SWIM TOGETHER

CAPTAIN MOORE AND BEN LECOMPTE OF THE VORTEX SWIM TEAM (IAMOCEAN) TAKE A “BUDDY” SWIM TOGETHER

AUGUST 6. “…We come home with heavy hearts. Debris collection and accumulation is the worst I’ve seen to date in the 20 years I’ve been conducting this research. .” Marty Klein, our on-board engineer and friend, stated it was EMOTIONALLY STRESSFUL to swim through the windrows of debris…..I couldn’t dive deep enough to escape it….Raquelle De Vine, our First Mate and Director of Algalita South Pacific, was nearly out of words to express her sadness and deep disappointment in the fact that we can do so many wonderful things and yet we continue to destroy the only home we know,…our Earth and it’s oceans. We HAVE to rethink our priorities…..”

Meeting up with The Vortex Swim Team mid-ocean was a fantastic experience. Not only did we exchange thoughts and information, they came to our aid. The ORV Alguita experienced a broken engine mount and we were unable to repair it with our equipment on board. It was our good fortune they had the necessary equipment to repair it for us……..Photos in the column at right are additional images from the Expedition. Watch for a video of Crew Interviews and Expedition commentaries.

July 25. We are in the area of the 1999 stations near the center of accumulation with 5 knots of wind.  We have completed Station 8 (1999) and are encountering a great deal of plastic in the area. We need to check the net on the longer trawls to make sure the net isn't clogged. Last night something entered the net causing a large rip... so we have to use a different net.  We are continuing to collect educational samples.

July 22. We were able to meet up with The Vortex Swim Team for a short time today.

OVERVIEW. Captain Moore and the ORV Alguita embark on their 20 year monitoring expedition to the North Pacific Gyre on July 14. This voyage, Algalita’s 11th, will be somewhat different in the sense we will be incorporating three separate projects into one expedition. We have the advantage of the Korean Broadcasting System Documentary project charter and the use of their drone, during which we can make comparisons with Algalita data collected in previous years and verify an important model for pinpointing areas of concentration by satellite in order to produce images of debris from space, which has heretofore been unattainable. We, along with the co-authors on our paper, are looking at trends in Gyre plastics over a 20 year monitoring program. In addition, we will do water sample collection to compare nano plastics to microplastics in our trawl samples to determine whether micro plastic concentrations correspond to the level of nano plastics in the same area.

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PROJECT 1. Korea Broadcasting System Documentary.  Korea Broadcasting System has chartered the ORV Alguita for a three week voyage to do a documentary on our 20 years of research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and sample the center of the GPGP.  Their mission is to provide an up close and personal experience of Algalita’s 20 years of research into the plague that plastic accumulating in this area has caused.

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PROJECT 2. Maximenko/Hafner Accumulation Zone Model. We will sample the center of accumulation of debris based on Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner’s model.  Again using KBS’s Drone, we will collect images to compare to those from satellites so that areas of accumulation and the type of debris within that location can be identified and recorded from space, which has never been done before.  They will also document microplastic collection in the as areas where we find larger debris.   

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PROJECT 3. The Vortex Swim Research Project. Potential At-Sea Meetup.  Ben Lecompte has swum across oceans and wanted to challenge the largest of the all, the great Pacific.  He started swimming from Japan last year and made it to Hawaii.  However, they changed plans due to having found plastic every single day while swimming.  His focus is now on the GPGP.  He plans to swim 300 miles through the vortex as predicted by the Maximenko/Hafner model and has already done 50.  His progress can be viewed at https://www.followmychallenge.com/live/thevortexswim/. His route will potentially coincide with ORV Alguita’s and we may be able to have a meet up in the middle of the Garbage Patch.  Because of his groups change in focus from setting swimming records to fighting the plastic plague in our precious ocean, his group will be doing research in support of Maximenko and Haffner at the Pacific Research Center. For a view of Ben’s global swim history, click here.

Maximenko suggests that we sample in a square box pattern to go across cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies to test some experimental work on eddies done in the North Atlantic, .  The prediction is that counter clockwise (cyclonic) eddies disperse debris and that counter clockwise (anti-cyclonic) eddies accumulate debris . By going in a square box pattern across eddies forming lines of debris, we can see if this prediction is validated.

Maximenko/Hafner can guide the Alguita to survey certain areas with high-resolution Sentinel-1A & 1B (European SAR satellites). This is not a trivial task because the satellites cover only small fraction of the ocean area (without coordination the odds of being in the frame are only 1/150). However, they are getting ideas of how to forecast future locations and times of overflies and it should work in 5 out of 6 cases. Having our survey (visual and using a drone) superposed on the 20km x 20 km satellite map may give very interesting results.  

In order to calibrate sampling methods, we will trawl in the same location with the suitcase manta (used in 2014 due to a breakdown of our standard manta used in other years), and the regular manta to be able to quantify any differences due to the small size difference of the two mantas.  Next we will do as many trawls from the different concentration zones that correspond to different colors on the Maximenko/Hafner map as possible, also in order to help validate the model.  We will also revisit four of the stations that we did on our 2018 Myctophid Project as the current map shows that the concentrations now are significantly different than the concentrations then.