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Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

April 27, 2016

Productive Plastics

Andrew Corso, C Watch, College of William and Mary

Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

Andrew’s First Handlining Catch

Ship's Log

27° 23.1’ N x 065 ° 31.2’ W

Description of location
South Sargasso Sea


4 kts

Weather / Wind
Partly cloudy skies, BF 3, 26.5 degrees C

Souls on Board

Hello from the crew of the Cramer!  Today has been incredibly productive (and slightly depressing).  During the twilight hours, students and staff were efficiently picking away at the catch hauled in the sampling nets that we tow next to the boat.  Unfortunately, they counted a record number of plastic pieces for this cruise, a total of 156.  Our chief scientist, Dr. Amy Siuda, thinks that the abnormally large number may be a result of the especially calm seas during the tow.  Nonetheless, it served as a reminder of one of our negative impacts on the ocean. 

During the early afternoon, we spotted an enormous bundle of abandoned fishing nets, lines, and traps.  We sent out a team in our small boat to investigate.  Due to the fact that the Sargasso Sea is oligotrophic, or nutrient poor, any sort of structure that can support small and juvenile organisms often serves as an oasis of life in the open ocean.  This is part of the reason why Sargassum is so important to the Sargasso Sea.  It offers a vital habitat for a large and diverse group of different species.  With this in mind, we also sent out two of our best fishermen in the small boat to see what sort of large fauna might be present under the plastic raft.

We first used an underwater camera to take a look at some of the life under the raft, and then proceeded to catch two juvenile greater amberjacks. The fish were only a couple pounds each, but can reach upwards of 100 pounds. After we released them, we hauled the plastic mass into the raft and lifted it into Cramer.  We were stunned at the variety of organisms we found hanging on to the plastic.  There were many different types of fish, shrimp, crabs, and mollusks.  We also felt as though we gained a good, albeit small, step towards cleaning the Sargasso Sea. 

We finished up our day learning how to raise and strike different sails on the Cramer that we don’t often use on this trip, such as the tops’l, jib tops’l, and the fisherman. We were also treated to a great cheese and meat platter from our excellent steward, Becky Slattery.  For the rest of the night, we will all be working on the introduction for the manuscripts of our group research projects (which are due tomorrow).  I hope my family is doing great and they are catching bigger fish on our boat! 

- Andrew

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, • Topics: c266  plastics  study abroad • (1) Comments


Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Charlie DuMond on April 28, 2016

Great shot you look like a seasoned fisher.
Great to get your update.

Charlie DuMond
(isa’s Dad)



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