School Email Exchange

Are you afraid to see things you’ve heard about like the garbage patches?

Posted on October 19 2012

Question submitted by Bainbridge High School

On October 16 we went through an area thick with plastics, yet even though we passed a number of large objects such as buoys, styrofoam insulation and a tire, you had to look closely at the surface of the water to see the thousands of tiny floating pieces of plastic.  Using the boat hook, dip nets and a neuston net tow we were able to collect a large sampling of both tiny "microplastics" and larger "macroplastics" from this area.

Greg Boyd picks plastic pieces out of a dip net.

Because of the possibility of there being large debris from the tsunami in Japan, the mate on deck does a three-mile radar check every ten minutes to make sure the Robert C. Seamans doesn't collide with any large debris that might not be immediately visible from the ship.

I'm not afraid of finding a solid "patch" of plastic because that's not how plastics are distributed in the ocean.  I am upset at the thought of all this plastic in our oceans, and maybe a little disgusted.  What I'm afraid of are the consequences for life in the oceans if we, as stewards of our planet, don't stop polluting them with plastic. 

The plastic Greg Boyd collected from one swipe of the dip net in the ocean.