North Atlantic Gyre: Day 6 Chasing Windrows and Dodging Storms

Clear skies cede to gray clouds, howling winds, and boiling seas. And with it, our ideal trawling conditions come to a temporary halt.

 

http://5gyres.org/posts/2010/01/15/north_atlantic_gyre_day_6_chasing_windrows_and_dodging_storms

North Atlantic Gyre: Day 6 Chasing Windrows and Dodging Storms

Posted on January 15, 2010 in Blog

 

Clear skies cede to gray clouds, howling winds, and boiling seas. And with it, our ideal trawling conditions come to a temporary halt. Crew stumble around the galley grabbing onto handholds for support, while poorly stowed pots and pans rattle until someone gets the hint. Now, we don foul weather gear on our night watches – life jackets and “deadliest catch” sea suits, harnessed at all times to the boats safety lines.

We’re reminded of Ron’s parting words – “Remember, the ocean is not your friend. Respect and enjoy her, but never forget she can turn on you….”

Just as suddenly, she turns again – the seas settle to a gentle ripple and we resume our trawling. “The calm before the storm” remarked Stiv. How right he is…A spectacular double rainbow stretches across the horizon. We reel in trawl #11 – to find the by now predictable handful of Sargassum, a few pelagic crabs, a dozen halibates (like a water skeeter, the only marine insect) and the ubiquitous plastic fragments we’ve come here to research. Though we’ve found plastic in every trawl, the pieces have been tiny, and few – nothing like the density we’ve seen in the Pacific.

North Atlantic Gyre: Day 6 Chasing Windrows and Dodging Storms

And then we came across our first windrow – a series of counter currents that create a slick line of debris on the oceans surface. “A plastic bottle! No…it’s a BOOT!” Bobbing amongst a patchy line of Sargassum was a large rubber boot, covered with barnacles and algae. As our skipper Clive shifted gears to backtrack, we began spotting more and more plastic trash. “A bottle cap, another bottle cap! A roller blade wheel!” Marcus stood at the bow shouting directions to Clive, while we dashed from port to starboard with our modified pool skimmer, netting as much as we could. 45 minutes later, we’d collected some 17 bottle caps, a shotgun shell, a plastic roller ball from a deodorant stick, numerous plastic chips, several plastic milk jug rings, and finally – the boot.

After 45 minutes of conditions calm enough to explore the windrow, the winds regrouped, and we’re now slamming along over fairly rough seas – too rough unfortunately to trawl. We’re hoping for another break in the weather, to gather a few final samples before racing to Bermuda to beat a nasty storm on the horizon. Ultimately, our schedule means little – as the ocean has plans of her own. We’re pretty sure none of these plans involve choking on our plastic trash.



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