Category Archives: Sea Dragon

Where is the trash?

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The weather is so good that we can make a short trip with the dinghy, the small motorboat we are carrying with us on board. Even on this expedition we see little or no plastic, which makes us wonder if the Atlantic Ocean is as polluted as the Pacific Ocean. More data needs to be collected over the next years first to come up with any conclusive answer. The currents and weather conditions are so influential on both location, movement and depth of the plastic particles that it is hard to say at the moment. On one hand I’m relieved that we don’t see as much as I expected, but at the other hand I’m also a bit dissapointed. I will have to rely much more on the trash washed ashore on the beaches of the islands at the borders of the gyre.

To comfort us, we are visited by a dozen dolphins, who swim and jump alongside the boat for about 10 minutes, and an hour later some humpback whales just pass us without paying much attention. On top of that we catch our first fish; a small bluefin tuna (not so many left according to different studies…), but it is to damaged to throw back. We cut it up and eat the freshest Sashimi ever, with a little regret in stead of wasabi. It has no plastic particles in its stomach. Another reassuring and/or dissapointing discovery.

Night Watch

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The first two days we hardly see big pieces of plastic debris. Small chips of plastic (around 5 mm) are present however from day one and are increasing as we approach the North Atlantic Gyre. The sky is open, allowing the full moon to clear the deck at night like a spotlight. It is weird to get into the watch schedule which is constantly changing. Three groups of four people are doing five watches every 24 hours. During the day they last 6 hours (from 06:00 to 12:00 and from 12:00 to 18:00). At night they last 4 hours (from 18:00 to 22:00, from 22:00 to 02:00 and the toughest one from 02:00 to 06:00). We all cook and clean in turns and keep the ships log, writing down data relating to weather conditions, wind and location. After a few days the team runs like a machine, operating the 19 meter long boat day and night non stop.

Lam and Joel through the night goggles.

In the morning the sun penetrates through the clouds like a laser beam. Despite the apocalyptic aura we keep heading towards the horizon.

Departure from Bermuda

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The weather is great so off we go! The crew consists of 13 people (God Almighty!), all birds of different feather. From scientists working for Algalita Marine Research Foundation measuring the amount of plastic floating on the surface (for the first time ever over the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean), to a writer and editor in chief of WEND, a magazine focussing on adventure, travel and conservation. From an independant videographer on his maiden voyage to Europe, to some students and sailing professionals. Our captain Clive was a skipper on the BT Global Challenge (2004) for which the Sea Dragon was initially build. He knows the ship like no one else and his main goal is obviously (and very reassuring) in the first place to bring us all safely to the other side.
We throw out our first plankton net to fish out small plastic particles and start looking out for the big pieces. Neptune seems to be willing to grand us a safe passage…