Ocean Currents » expedition http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:00:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 GYRE Expedition Provides Opportunity for Marine Debris Research, Wildlife Sightings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/11/gyre-expedition-provides-opportunity-for-marine-debris-research-wildlife-sightings/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/11/gyre-expedition-provides-opportunity-for-marine-debris-research-wildlife-sightings/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 15:09:10 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6023
Nick Mallos and Norseman

Getting ready to board the Norseman


Most people visit the small town of Seward, Alaska, to take a half-day glacier and wildlife cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. I arrived in Seward to board the R/V Norseman to depart for Expedition GYRE.

Organized by the Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum, our 14-member team comprised of scientists, artists and filmmakers has a shared vision: We want to establish a new dialogue on marine debris from the nexus of science, art and education and devise strategies for disseminating information to broad audiences, globally.

The scale and magnitude of Alaska’s marine debris problem is unlike any other I’ve experienced. The state’s 45,000-mile coastline has myriad coves and pocket beaches that capture massive quantities of debris, underscoring the fact that even the most isolated areas of our planet are not immune to the problems of ocean trash.

This expedition affords me the opportunity to obtain quantitative and qualitative data on the most persistent forms of debris plaguing the Alaskan wilderness and compare it to data I’ve collected at other beaches around the world.

From Port Seward, we motored for almost 12 hours out of Resurrection Bay and along the Kenai Peninsula, which gave us exquisite views of the Bear and Aialik glaciers. Calm waters allowed us to conduct prime wildlife spotting from the bow of the Norseman.

My first Alaskan marine mammal sighting was a small group of Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli). Their sleek black and white torpedo-shaped bodies swiftly darted from the starboard side of the Norseman and kept pace riding our bow for almost 20 minutes.

Although I’ve witnessed this phenomenon countless times, watching these majestic animals glide effortlessly along the water’s surface just inches from the boat is resplendent. As quickly as they appeared, they were gone—and for good reason: The porpoise were replaced by another black-and-white predator, the killer whale (Orcinus orca). The male’s iconic, 6-foot-tall dorsal fin cut through the waves alongside a female as they charged Norseman’s bow. Unfortunately the majestic pair peeled off and out of sight, but the brief encounter had me yearning for more.

Our wildlife encounters continued along the entire Kenai Peninsula and included sea otters, bald eagles, black-legged kittiwakes, guillemots and my first ever spotting of a horned puffin. The day’s sightings concluded with a pair of humpbacks (Megaptera noveangliae) that leisurely crossed our wake just outside Morning Cove.

The Norseman motored into Tonsina Bay just after Alaska’s midnight-setting sun. Darkness here is relative, and a twilight remains throughout the few hours of nighttime, essentially creating 24 hours of daylight. At 1 a.m., I finally called it a day and settled into my bunk. The sun, along with the team, will rise early to deploy for Gore Point.

Expedition GYRE is off to a magnificent start.

Sea otter Early light at Morning Cove, Alaska. Northern fulmar seconds before splash-down off Afognak Island. Horned Puffin Humpback flukes Humpback mother and calf spouting in Shelikof Strait. Sunset Nick sampling water Nick Mallos Seward point of departure Sunset Moose Pass Whale Skull Nick Mallos and Norseman ]]>
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Even in the Ocean, Every Rose Has Its Thorn http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/08/even-in-the-ocean-every-rose-has-its-thorn/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/08/even-in-the-ocean-every-rose-has-its-thorn/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2012 16:09:33 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=961 Debris found during cleanup near Yokohama, Japan

Debris collected from Transect #1 at Sea Paradise Beach -- Nick Mallos

Mawar is the Malaysian word for rose, but Typhoon Mawar has been nothing but a thorn since we arrived in Yokohama, Japan. Like hurricanes, typhoons form when tropical depressions escalate into cyclones; in the Pacific, these cyclones are called typhoons, while in the Atlantic they are known as hurricanes.

This past weekend, Mawar delivered heavy rain and sustained winds of 110 mph to the Philippines, gusting up to 130 mph and taking the lives of eight Filipinos. We felt peripheral effects of Mawar in Japan as intensifying winds and strong gusts jostled boats and tested the strength of dock lines in the marina.

So far, Mawar has delayed our departure on the Algalita/5 Gyres Japan Tsunami Debris Expedition by almost one week. To say anticipation and angst on board has been high would be an understatement. However, we have not allowed our time on land to be wasted.

Several of us traveled to a nearby beach that sits adjacent to the Sea Paradise Amusement Park. With roller coasters and a Ferris wheel as backdrop, we surveyed the crescent-shaped beach using NOAA’s Shoreline Monitoring Protocol, incorporating a microplastics sampling component recently designed by 5 Gyres Institute.

Plastic fragments dominated the rag line — the tide line on the beach where seaweed, shells and debris accumulate — and cigarette butts and food wrappers comprise the majority of items found toward the berm. None of the items we found indicated this debris was tsunami-generated.

Nick Mallos on the bow of the Sea Dragon ship

Nick Mallos awaiting Typhoon Mawar on the bow of Pangaea Exploration's Sea Dragon.

If our delayed departure has caused anyone to lose sight of the tsunami-related objectives of our expedition, there was a big reminder this morning via news of a 70-foot dock from Japan washing ashore on the Oregon coast.

As our departure nears, uncertainty still lingers regarding our debris encounters. We know we will find plastic and trash, but what type and how much, if any, tsunami debris we will encounter remains unknown.

No indecision exists among my crewmates though. The passion and determination for trash free seas exhibited by each crewmember is inspiring, and there’s no question that we are ready for whatever Poseidon has in store for us.

This evening, I opened a card with words inside that flawlessly capture the spirit and purpose embodied by each person aboard this expedition:

“This is your world. Shape it or somebody else will.” – Gary Lew

Fortunately, the weather is looking up and we plan to set sail at first light. Check out Ocean Conservancy’s Scientist at Sea Center to stay up-to-date with my progress.

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Follow Me on a Journey to the Center of the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/29/follow-me-on-a-journey-to-the-center-of-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/29/follow-me-on-a-journey-to-the-center-of-the-ocean/#comments Tue, 29 May 2012 19:14:18 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=817 Nick Mallos

Nick Mallos

I’ve been in Japan for a week now, witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by the tsunami 15 months ago and helping with ongoing cleanup efforts as much as I can. At the end of the week, I set sail on the Algalita/5 Gyres Japanese Tsunami Expedition that will take me out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean in search of tsunami debris that was washed out to sea.

National Geographic has asked me to share updates about the expedition on their News Watch blog, so I posted my first entry while still on dry land.

Here’s an excerpt:

Documenting what types of materials are out there, and how they are responding to currents and wind, will help us understand the trajectory of the debris and what it means for our ocean and coastlines. I’m hoping this research expedition will provide a snapshot of what might show up on our shores.

Another goal of this trip is to enrich Ocean Conservancy’s broader study on ocean debris and plastic pollution. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of debris in the ocean was there a long time before last year’s tsunami disaster and was caused not by nature but by humans.

Stay tuned for more updates as I continue on this journey — and join Ocean Conservancy’s Trash-Free Challenge to help reduce your impact on our ocean.

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