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Latest Expedition Journal

October 16:  Day 14

Posted by Emelia DeForce

The Windrow Tow

I woke up this morning to a mate and an assistant scientist reporting that there was a plethora of plastic floating all around the ship.  I peeked out the porthole in my bunk and sure enough, I could already see plastic bobbing around.  I grabbed what I quickly could to help me wake up and headed out to the deck. 

There was plastic floating in a very clearly-defined line that looked like a river running through the ocean.  This is caused by a windrow.  These are places in the ocean where you can have accumulation of floating material due to wind and surface currents that cause vertical water motion.  This “line-up” of flotsam can consist of native plants such Sargassum or, in our case, introduced materials such as plastic.  We sampled this area by towing a neuston net at a ship speed of two knots for 30 minutes. 

When the tow was over, I knew from the looks of the cod end and the fact that the net was overflowing with plastic confetti pieces, we were in for a lot of work.  This is the highest concentration of plastic that we have encountered thus far on this scientific expedition.  Prior to this tow, we counted 1373 pieces from a single manta net tow.  The science team is still counting the pieces one-by-one using tweezers and tallying as they go.  This will continue throughout the night and into the day tomorrow.  Last I checked, there were over 12,000 pieces and still counting.