Project

2016-17 South Pacific Expedition - en route to the Galapagos

Goal: http://www.captain-charles-moore.org/chile-2016/

Research Lantern Fish population in the South Pacific Gyre to determine the scope of plastic pollution and how well these fish are surviving. The itinerary also includes sampling the waters off Easter Island and the coast of Chile. This is a 6-month research project. Please click here to learn more. http://www.algalita.org/sp-expedition/

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Project log

Charles James Moore
added an update
Greetings Fellow Researchers.
We have received several inquiries asking about an update to the 2016-17 South Pacific Expedition. There is nothing new to share right now, but we will report back to you with data results as soon as they are available.
Thanks
Jeanne Gallagher
Assistant to Captain Moore.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
In answer to Tony Pereira's question.
Thx Charles, much appreciated, how does plastic affect coral/reef life ?
Have you come across evidence that corals recover from bleaching, how much and how fast ?
Best wishes.
Hi Tony,
We have found corals growing on trash in the gyre. That may be the way they survive.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
Here are a few photos and a sample video of debris collection.
I will have a final report soon and will keep you posted when it will appear on my website, captain-charles-moore.org.
Stay tuned!
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
Here are a few photos from the Expedition. I will be adding more soon.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
April 19. Greetings to my fellow researchers! A lot has happened since my last update. We’ve successfully sampled and confirmed the existence of a “South Pacific Garbage Patch”. We've discovered life itself in the South Pacific Gyre is less than in the North Pacific.   The South Pacific Gyre was more of a desert than the North Pacific, which was a surprise to me.  We didn’t get any Myctophids from the South Pacific Garbage Patch.  The reason is the conveyor belt that brings nutrients from the circumpolar current around Antarctica that feeds much of the ocean, goes deep under the South Pacific Gyre so it has less life in it than the North Pacific. In the North Pacific Gyre life is fed from the nutrients dredged up by the circumpolar current at the South Pole which surface in the North Pacific Gyre. Therefore, we didn’t see a lot of Myctophids coming to the surface for plankton because there is much less plankton there than in the North Pacific Gyre.    So without Lantern Fish (Myctophids) from the South Pacific Garbage Patch, we can’t compare the South Pacific ingestion levels of eating plastic with the North Pacific.  Another surprise was how little life there was in that part of the ocean so the plastic to plankton ratios will be quite high.
During offshore Chilean coastal sampling in early March, we experienced our Port Engine failure which necessitated a change in plans and course. Unfortunately we had to cancel Phases 3 and 4 of our voyage and start to make our way back to home port. Interestingly, after leaving the South Pacific Gyre and at 500 miles to the seaward of the Galapagos, we began to see more and larger Myctophids and are now collecting them for further lab analysis.  We have done hand netting as well as Manta trawling in an area we had not planned on.  Our course change has taken us to uncharted deep water territories we would not have explored had we been able to execute Phases 3 and 4. However, speaking in terms of the world's Garbage Patches”, my subjective opinion is that what we’ve discovered in the South Pacific Central Gyre in 2017, compares to our 2007 North Pacific Gyre Expedition data findings. 
April 9, 2017.  We’ve found the Corners of the Gyre!  - 
We’ve passed through two drifts of garbage that are part of the circulatory system of the Gyre, bringing garbage to the North Pacific. We are now in the North Pacific. We passed about 6 degrees north latitude and found our first highway of garbage heading toward the North Pacific Garbage Patch. Then at about 9 degrees north latitude, we found our second concentration of garbage. In between, it’s very clean. So it’s like the rings of Saturn…like there are different rings of the Gyre that are bringing this debris in. We would find an area of trash, and then no trash. Then more trash, about 400 miles apart. So it’s not a seamless concentration of debris…it’s patchy concentrations. This is the Southeast corner of the North Pacific Gyre. So the latest findings we have, is the discovery of trash at the Southeast corner of the North Pacific Gyre. 
April 10 -Framing the Garbage Patches - N 14 13.102, W 106 01.134.   It was nearing the end of a not-so-eventful day and we had lowered the sails after the wind dropped off.   Off our starboard side, I spotted a piece of green Poly pipe floating past the boat, slightly below the surface. Only a foot long, it was gone out of sight by the time we had slowed the boat down and I headed to the stern to find it.  We decided to pursue it and so we began to back up looking for it.  Our search left us without the green fragment, though not empty handed, as at the slower speed we were alerted to a heavy concentration of meso and micro fragments around us!  Thinking we’d found a windrow (an area of converging waters), We were excited to put the Manta Trawl in and take a sample.
I couldn’t believe what we were seeing!  Here at the southernmost reaches of the North Pacific, having only just crossed the equator and far from land or any known accumulation zone, we are finding similar concentrations to that of the outer limits of the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre.  I was sure I had left sights of those sickening concentrations well behind.   As we drifted along, capturing highly weathered and fouled fragments (instead of the macrodebris that have been our typical catch so far for Leg 9), it seemed we were tracking through not just a highway feeding into the North Pacific “Garbage Patch” but at 6° degrees North we had discovered a possible South Eastern border of the accumulation zone.
Gathering data to frame both the “garbage patches”, we, Algalita and I, are one step closer to understanding these ever-changing systems.   We know that the high-pressure systems that sit consistently in the eastern reaches of both the North and South Pacific determine the wind circulation and the currents that border the accumulation areas.   These border currents, however, do not seem to move debris in consistent bands, but in smaller patches defined by eddies, windrows and small scale current systems.
So please stay tuned. You can see more on www.captain-charles-moore.org
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
Greetings all.
South Pacific Expedition Update
Over the past few weeks Captain Moore and his crew have been documenting plastic pollution along the Chilean coast while traveling north from Antofagasta. Please visit his website (captain-charles-moore.org, click on "Leavng Arica soon" for photos from various locations along the coast.) After arriving in Arica, the crew worked with Tortu Arica Ong Tortugas Marinas to raise awareness about the issues facing green sea turtles at the mouth of the Rio San Jose.  
Working to strengthen the fight against plastic pollution in this region, Captain Moore invited community members of all ages to sail aboard the vessel via Algalita's Ship2Shore Field Research Program. This adds to his growing numbers of students joining "The Plastic Pollution Conversation"'.
The crew is planning to leave Arica in the next few days.  Instead of traveling back through the South Pacific Gyre, the Alguita will be returning to California to undergo engine repairs and maintenance.  Stay tuned for an update from the Captain himself.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
2/7/2017 OPEN HOUSE ON THE ORV ALGUITA IN COQUIMBO, CHILE!
2-7 A rare opportunity for Coquimbo residents to visit the OrV Alguita, the research vessel that made history in the North Pacific Gyre. The importance of children having access to the information Captain Moore has gathered over the years on plastic pollution in the largest ocean on the planet is immeasurable. Children will be better equipped to create solutions to this devastating plague as we move forward to a more sustainable global environment.
Augustina seems quite comfortable at the helm of the ORV Alguita.....
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
COQUIMBO, CHILE. February 6, 2017. Captain Charles Moore and his crew are now in Coquimbo with Professor Martin Thiel. This is the second of several opportunities he is making available in the Chilean ports listed below as part of Algalita's 2016-17 South Pacific Gyre Expedition. His research vessel, The ORV Alguita, is joining with various Chilean Universities and concerned groups to accomplish near shore studies and compare them to data previously gathered in places like California..
Feb 1 – Feb 6 | Valparaiso to Coquimbo Feb 11 – Feb 19 | Coquimbo to Antofagasta Feb 24 – Mar 3 | Antofagasta to Arica
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
JANUARY 29, 2017. Presentation at Higuerillas Yacht Club.  "Great crowd at my presentation on our findings during the first extended sampling for plastics in the immense South Pacific Gyre.  The samples looked like our 2007 North Pacific Gyre voyage with less consumer goods and more fishing related plastics.  The Event was hosted by Higuerillas (Castor Beans) Yacht Club."  Read the Spanish version of my interview appearing in El Mercurio de Valparaiso Manana.  (Photo below and Interview below)
JANUARY 27, 2017. Leg 5 Complete –  Raquelle de Vine.   We made it!!  Concon, Chile.  The South American continent is beneath our feet!  We arrived on Thursday morning through a thick fog caused by large forest fires that are currently wreaking havoc throughout the lowlands and valleys of Chile. This explains why our trawl the evening before was full of ash and terrestrial bugs and debris, even a ladybug!  As we docked at the Yacht Club at Higuerillas, Concón, a sense of satisfaction surged through us all as we acknowledged the safe and successful completion of the 5th leg of our expedition! The reality of being back in civilization hit hard when we glanced over the side of the boat and saw a mess of plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, line, and other single-use plastics.Here in this town, plastic is everywhere. It is in the gutters, in the bushes, along the streets, in the water, down the cliffs and of course along the beaches…but this is no different to anywhere else in the world. It is a constant reminder to us of the importance of addressing the reduction and management of the use of this invasive material.
For the next few months the tune of the voyage will change as we sail down the coast of Chile. It will be nice to enjoy the delights of land while we work to connect with local communities to raise awareness of this issue. Here in Concón, Captain Moore has a talk arranged at the yacht club for Saturday evening. On Sunday, we’re hosting a community cleanup at Roca Oceànica, a beautiful nature reserve that has become more of a trash bin over the years.Although plastic pollution is an obvious problem here, we’ve met many change-makers doing amazing things in the community. Yesterday we checked out the Punto Limpio, which are the recycling stations found all around Chile. They are comprehensive, fun and simple!
STAY TUNED!.....
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
Finding Identical Items Days Apart – S 33° 08.367’ W 87° 57.724’- January 16 and 17, 2017 . Raquelle de Vine. (SEE THE PHOTOS BELOW TO SEE NEARLY IDENTICAL SAMPLES AND TWO IDENTICAL JUGS.)
We’ve been seeing less plastic in our trawls since we left the accumulation zone of the South Pacific Subtropical gyre. Over the next few days we’ll anticipate seeing less and less as we continue East towards land.
After a busy morning of trawling we stopped for a nice long swim and some watermelon. Almost immediately after getting underway Doshi, who was on watch with Charlie shouted, “DEBRIS! Off the port side!” and all of a sudden we were pulling macro debris from the ocean around us. We recorded the coordinates, weighed, photographed, and tagged each piece. Any interesting specimens we found were collected and preserved, just like our trawl samples in 5% Formalin. In order to save special items for chemical analysis, such as the polystyrene plastic on the foot of a Gooseneck Barnacle or the tissues of a fish that has ingested plastic, then we freeze the samples as they are.
One of the highlights of this trip is when an interesting species come in with a trawl or piece of debris, like this Glaucus atlanticus, a nudibranch – one is the biggest one I’ve seen so far. The plastic itself is quite interesting too. Each piece degrades differently and it’s always a challenge figuring out what it used to be or where it may have come from. Almost every object has bite marks and we’ve even found some matching items like these jugs!
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
GREETINGS FROM THE CENTER OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC GYRE! Sprinkles in the Sea -32.75535 -92.464383 – January 18, 2017 -  Raquelle de Vine.  Remember eating sprinkles on cupcakes as a kid? The tiny little colorful sugary beads… So colorful and delicious and always associated with good times…!  But, if you spilled them, man oh man, what a task it was to clean up all those hundreds of colorful tiny sprinkles.  This thought has been running through my head over the last few days as we’ve been inspecting more and more trawls heavily laden with plastic…We began our one-hour trawl samples a few days ago as we crept closer and closer into an accumulation zone of the South Pacific Sub Tropical Gyre. I say ‘an’ rather than ‘the’ because we have had several High Pressure systems showing up within the sample area and we know that these high pressure systems create the winds that circulate the surface currents into sub gyres / accumulation zones. Generally, in each of the oceans gyres there is a permanent pressure system that creates an accumulation zone, which is what we have been hoping to track and sample. However, it is always changing in size and shape because of the constantly changing oceanic conditions. This means that despite there being a general location where you can expect an accumulation area, you can’t just pin the spot on a map and arrive at the central accumulation zone at any time of the year. Also, factor in the fact that 81% of the Earth’s surface south of the equator is sea water.It’s like we’re storm chasers, except we are looking for the stellar calms, tracking the weather on our computer navigation system (remember Buck talking about TimeZero on Leg One?). We compare our coordinates to Prof. Nikolai Maximenko’s model of marine debris accumulation determined by the trajectories of Lagrangian drifters and the map of highest plastic concentrations produced by 5 Gyres during their March-April 2011 voyage. From the models, we expected to encounter higher concentrations further west in our journey, however, after several days of steadily increasing quantities of micro debris in our trawls the accumulation zone is apparently currently further East than predicted.Each day I think we have seen the worst of it, but the sprinkles of debris keep filling the petri dishes more and more, increasing the ratio of plastic to plankton, exponentially it seems. Yesterday, one trawl we pulled in was sickening. Take a good look at the picture, the longer you look the more and more you will see, all the tiny fragments start coming into view, the pieces of line and the overall quantity hits you. One hour!!!   The microplastic concentration levels seem to be equivalent to what they would find in the North Pacific Gyre.The abundance of macrodebris has been increasing as well. Traveling in a straight line we collected 5 pieces of macro debris in the timeframe of 15-20min. Out here, we estimate concentrations of macrodebris by counting the number of visible pieces we see in a certain period of time. In the North Pacific Captain Moore describes finding more often consumer goods like bottles, toothbrushes, and packaging but here in the South Pacific, we have been finding mostly commercial items such as fishing debris, buoys, rope, fish bins, lines and bulk containers. In the trawls, there has been an excess of line and filaments from rope and fishing nets, in addition to the unidentifiable microplastic fragments.  Today, our trawls seem to be less full of plastics. Together with increased winds and swell conditions, this is a clue that we are moving away from the high pressure cell and the accumulation zone again.Our next stop is Robinson Crusoe Island where Captain Moore will deliver a talk to the local people, in particular the fishermen, about the extent of the issue. We are grateful for fair winds at the moment and by the looks of things as we should have them for the next couple of days. All crew are well despite a few life changing moments in the past few days and we are fully charged for continuing our task at hand.I encourage you to share this information around, share the pictures and the stories! Our oceans are brimming with this plastic pollution but we cannot drain a bath tub when the tap is still on! Stay interested and hungry for change; you are the solution!
Check captain-charles-moore.org and www.algalita.org/research for four more recent updates. More to come....
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
GREETINSG FROM EASTER ISLAND! Blogs have been silent for a little while but this is the latest. More can be seen on captain-charles-moore.org
At anchor – Hanga Roa – January 6, 2017 – Raquelle de Vine.  We’ve been anchored at Rapa Nui since the first day of the new year, re-provisioning and repairing the vessel. The sampling that we did over the last leg, revisiting our 2011 study, was especially interesting for me, as I am from the South Pacific myself.   Analyzing the state of plastic pollution in the Neuston layer (the surface waters that we are sampling on this voyage) in this remote part of the world, I am not sure what is more shocking: the trawl samples laden with micro-meso debris, the quantity of macro debris we have been retrieving or the number of plastic fragments found in the stomach of every fish we catch.  In addition, the number of fish baskets from New Zealand companies is astonishing--I need to raise their attention to this!   What’s the worst of all this?  We are sampling mostly within the waters of Rapa Nui, one of the most isolated places in the world.  We know the debris we find in these waters mostly does not come from the inhabitants of the island only 166km², but they are located within the convergence zone of the South Pacific Gyre and therefore become a depository to the trash that is circulating the Pacific.So what do the people of Rapa Nui do about it?  Many advocates on the island are working towards raising awareness, reducing plastic consumption on the island and implementing initiatives to tackle the issue!  Advocate Sebastian Yankovic Pakarati was on board for the most recent leg, and we’ve since joined forces upon returning to the Island to spread the word about our work! Yesterday evening Sebastian, Juan Pablo from the Galapagos (who was also on board) and Captain Moore delivered a presentation to 60+ attendees on the issue of plastic pollution. They compared the two island communities, Galapagos and Rapa Nui, discussing similarities and differences in how the issue is affecting the communities. The presentation went well with lots of positive response, and it was filmed to be put on the local news. So here’s to spreading the word initiating action plans.  It frustrates me, though, that they’re the ones having to dedicate so much time and effort to addressing an issue that they are on the receiving end of.  I feel a renewed sense of the importance of this expedition as we set off on Leg 5, which is taking us to the main destination of our Expedition---the South Pacific Gyre accumulation zone.   Along the way, we will dive deeper into the science of the issue, gathering more data and evidence on the state of micro plastics in the Gyre.  In time, the data we collect will be used to build an international and widespread understanding of what is going on in this part of the world’s oceans. It is so evident being here, in Rapa Nui, that this is not an issue to be dealt with nation-to-nation. The information we are gathering is crucial to support the more international and collaborative conversation efforts, from large continental nations to small island ones!As we pull in our anchor this evening to set off east towards the Gyre, our motivational fires are stoked with the passion of the Rapa Nui people. We are intrigued about what we will find next.  Lorana everyone.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
ALGALITA JOINS THE “SHELLBACKS” CLUB - 11/21/2016 -  Captain Charlie. There is a venerable ceremony in which sailors crossing the Equator for the first time are inducted into the exalted ranks of the Shellbacks from their lowly status as pollywogs. Yesterday, aboard ORV Alguita, they were forced to wear clothing inside out, be smeared with garbage and grease and pelted with rotten squid.  After enduring this gut turnng producing ordeal, they became Shellbacks and proudly entered the Southern Ocean.
Next report will be from the Galapagos Islands!
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
11/21/16.  Captain Mike de Felice drew a great depiction of ORV Algluita today that I have to share.  We have left the confused seas and winds that occur north of the Equator and we are sailing to gentle, southwest trades toward our landfall on San Cristobal --- Port of Entry to The Galapagos Islands, also known as the Archipelago de Colon.  Raquelle is busy blogging on her laptop, set on the winch table after we sucked out the last drops of fuel from our deck drums.  In only two more days, we will complete the first leg of our 7 month voyage to sample the other Great Pacific Garbage Patch southwest of Easter Island.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
11/21/16  Myctophids, We want to compare the rate of plastic ingestion in the South Pacific Gyre to what we found in its northern counterpart. (35%). See photo below.
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
Still en route to the Galapagos. We try to post every other day. We hit weather a couple of days ago. This is an excerpt from yesterday's blog.
14.1637333°, -102.2597167° The weather has been rough. Seeing the stars for the first time in three nights has made me realize their importance during our journey. It’s nice how boat-life fosters simplicity. The internal list that constantly scrolls through your head is replaced with tranquility as you’re completely immersed in the present. Please follow the blogs on http://www.captain-charles-moore.org/chile-2016/ and http://www.algalita.org/topics/blog/
Stay tuned.......
 
Charles James Moore
added an update
You can check my personal website http://www.captain-charles-moore.org/chile-2016/ for Blog updates and http://www.algalita.org/sp-expedition/ for Blog updates and Itinerary map
 
Charles James Moore
added a project goal
Research Lantern Fish population in the South Pacific Gyre to determine the scope of plastic pollution and how well these fish are surviving. The itinerary also includes sampling the waters off Easter Island and the coast of Chile. This is a 6-month research project. Please click here to learn more. http://www.algalita.org/sp-expedition/