And We're Off! Charging Into the South Pacific Gyre for Plastic


TreeHugger Paula is reporting from the latest 5 Gyres trip, from Chile to Easter Island. She was a little too queasy to write, so this post is from 5 Gyres Co-Founder Anna Cummins. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Noontime position: 37 54.7 South, 74 04.3 West

We're underway! 11 of us stand on deck, soaking in the stunning view as we navigate our way through the gorgeous channels that wend lazily from Valdivia to the sea. Picturesque little villages break up the thick, green forests bordering us on all sides. A perfect day for setting sail --- and for a helicopter flyover!

>> WATCH VIDEO: 5 Gyres Founders Explain How Plastic Pollution in Oceans Really Works
For the last 2 days, Friedemann has been hustling to track down a helicopter, to shoot some aerial footage of the Sea Dragon making its way to open water. We all encourage him, somewhat skeptical but hoping that it will work out. This would be ubercool...

"Listen, it's coming! Everyone take your places on deck!"

We quickly raise the sails as the tell tale chopper sounds ricochetthrough the air. A tiny, black dot swoops its way towards us, hovering low over the water, circling our boat, and then disappearing into the bright sun. We try to look busy for the cameras,pulling on random ropes while Friedemann and Bill - our two filmmakers - shoot blissfully from above.

By far, this has been our most dramatic departure yet, and the results are spectacular! Jeff fetches the filmmakers in the dingy, elated with excitement. Viewed from 300 meters up, the Sea Dragon was merely an elegant white speck against a sparkling backdrop. This will be our home for the next few weeks.

12 hours into the voyage, things take a temporary turn for the worse. Sea sickness sends a third of the crew either to their bunks, or heaved over the side of the boat, ashen faced and miserable. And a critical piece on the watermaker blows. Our Skipper Clive wakes us with the news, holding the part between two fingers - a small fitting the size of a thumbnail. We'd have to head back to Chile for repairs. Without water, we wont make it to Easter Island, much less Tahiti, the next leg of the voyage.

Incredulous, we look at the tiny culprit, heads spinning with the implications. Going back now means another delay of at least 24 hours, and we're already behind schedule. Marcus heads out to investigate with Dale. If these two MacGyvers can't fix it, we will doubtless have to turn back.

Success!! Marcus finds a roughly matching part, and an hour of tinkering later, Dale finesses the piece into place. A narrow miss, thanks to our resourceful handymen.

We're now roughly 30 hours from Robinson Crusoe (pictured at the top of the post), a small, remote island where we'll do a bit of exploring before getting back on our route to Rapa Nui. And soon, we'll begin our research - which is what brings us to this far away part of the world, studying plastic marine pollution in an area that has yet to be explored. We truly have no idea what we will find.

More from 5 Gyres
TreeHugger Joins 5 Gyres To Sail The South Pacific In Search Of Plastic Pollution
5 Gyres Founders Explain How Plastic Pollution in Oceans Really Works
Taking Out the Trash....From Ocean Garbage Patches (Slideshow)

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