All photos credit: Paula Alvarado
It was an eventful day on the Sea Dragon, the boat where TreeHugger is taking part in an expedition with the 5 Gyres Institute in search for plastic pollution in the South Pacific.
As we continue to traverse the center of the gyre, plastic particles continue to increase in number in the samples taken from the trawls. Additionally, the crew spotted and rescued three large pieces of plastic waste from the ocean.
About 1,500 miles from Chile behind us and around 520 from reaching Easter Island, in the raise of another blue and sunny day a member of the crew found a yellow plastic bucket with Spanish inscriptions -- probably indicating it came from Chile -- floating in the ocean. Minutes later, we found a food crate (pictured at the top, and getting fished out of the ocean, below) with an English brand and text in it.
The objects offer a clear picture of what happens with plastic in the ocean: Photo-degraded and full of microorganisms on their surface, both the plastic bucket and crate were easily breaking apart in smaller pieces that have the potential danger of being mistaken for food by marine life.
The fishing net was already being mistaken for nature by a large number of small crabs that were making it their new home, probably not suspecting the potential toxicity of the material.
With only four days to Easter Island ahead, the expedition keeps confirming that the South Pacific has not escaped the problem of plastic pollution and that this material is present in all five subtropical gyres of the ocean. Nevertheless, it's still apparent that this area has a lesser concentration of pollution than the North Pacific, North Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South Atlantic.
As the days get warmer, life on the boat is getting both more enjoyable and challenging. On one side, seasickness is mostly gone in the whole crew and everyone is pretty much adapted to working in random hours 24/7. Sunny afternoons surrounded by blue waters are spent reading, writing, listening to music. On the other, the missing of basic elements of everyday life (like ice!) make some feel a little homesick.
We are now moving out of the gyre and look forward to some coastal work in the mystical Easter Island. Stay tuned!
More from TreeHugger's voyage with 5 Gyres
Traversing The South Pacific Gyre: Plastic Marine Pollution Is Officially A Global Issue
Ocean Plastics In Our Food Chain: The Importance Of Lantern Fish And Night Trawling
First Evidence of Plastic in the South Pacific: Is This a Different Kind of Garbage Patch?
Aboard with 5 Gyres in the South Pacific: The Trawling Begins
5 Gyres Founders Explain How Plastic Pollution in Oceans Really Works (Video)