Tag Archives: Research

Plastic Catch

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All 29 boxes and bags (396 kilo!/870 pounds) arrived in the Netherlands. As soon as the last one was delivered I unpacked them and put them outside on display. The sight was truly amazing! What an incredible collection of trash! And to think about the fact that it is just a small fraction of all the trash that is out there…. mind boggling!

In the coming months I will start melting all the debris and add it to the growing Plastic Reef. It would be nice however to put the catch on display before I melt it.

Sick Land!

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After some asking around we find out that all the plastic which is collected on the beaches is thrown in the same landfill as the other trash of the island. Curious as we are, we head for the landfill. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw when we arrived: an open dump with any kind of trash you can imagine is creating a new landscape. Thin layers of lava stones and ash are used to cover up the trash from time to time, but most of it is left in the open, ready to be taken away by the wind and blown straight into the ocean.

It makes me think of a passage I recently read in The World Without Us by Alan Weisman:

‘What does this mean for the ocean, the ecosystem, the future? All this plastic had appeared in barely more than 50 years. Would its chemical constituents or additives concentrate as they ascend the food chain, and alter evolution? Would it last long enough to enter the fossil record? Would geologists millions of years hence find Barbie doll parts embedded in conglomerates formed in seabed depositions? Would they be intact enough to be pieced together like dinosaur bones? Or would they decompose first, expelling hydrocarbons that would seep out of a vast Neptune’s graveyard fo eons to come, leaving fossilized imprints of Barbie and Ken hardened in stone for eons beyond?’

When we are all disgusted, totally depressed and ready to go, Joel finds this beautiful plastic bag: Ocean Blue (from a shop in the Azores). Oh irony!

Beach cleaning in Bermuda

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Last day on land! We decide to go to the beach to look for plastic. On first sight it looks like paradise, but if you look closer…..

In 30 minute we collect 4 big bags (about 100 kilo) without any effort. It is hard to imagine how plastic there is in total on Bermuda… and that is just one island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Bermuda at last…

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After 20 days of travel and work, passing by Dubai, Beijing and LA I arrive triple jet-lagged in Bermuda. Luckily the departure is delayed a bit because of some additional instalment of a CO2 sensor to measure the changing acidity of the ocean.

The crew is exited to leave however. Below captain Clive on right is pointing at the center of the North Atlantic Gyre, our first goal.

Pangaea Explorations

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In September 2009 I went to Lagos, Portugal to meet the team of the Sea Dragon, a 19m steel hulled sailing vessel built in the UK in 2000. One of twelve identical yachts commissioned by Challenge Business, these boats took part in the toughest yacht race in the world, the BT Global Challenge, sailing around the world against prevailing winds and currents. In 2007 it was acquired by Pangaea Exploration LLC and refit to function as a research vessel with the aim to host and collaborate with different organisations and foundations investigating the pollution levels of our natural environment and the global impact on societies worldwide. In January 2010 I will join them together with Lam Moreels and Marjolijn Dijkman to cross the North Atlantic Gyre, from Bermuda to the Azores.

Lam Moreels talking to Ron Ritter of the Sea Dragon


Written by . Filed under North Pacific Gyre, Plastic Reef, Research. Tagged , . No comments.

In February 2009 I went to the Hawaiian Islands to collect more plastic. They are located in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre and get a lot of plastic flotsom on their beaches. For one day I joined the volunteer group B.E.A.C.H. who is collecting, categorising and counting every piece of plastic they find. They shipped five boxes after my departure which I melted on to the first Plastic Reef.

Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai`i (B.E.A.C.H.) is a non-profit, volunteer organization concerned with bringing awareness and solutions to the problem of marine debris and litter on Hawai`i’s beaches.  B.E.A.C.H. organizes litter prevention campaigns, educational presentations to schools and community organizations and beach clean-ups in order to educate the community about the need to care for Hawai`i’s beaches, coastline and marine life.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation

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Alguita Alguita.

In January 2009 I went to Los Angeles to do preliminary research for the ‘Plastic Reef’ project. I met Charles Moore, who discovered the North Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997, at Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach. He gave me the first samples of plastic debris collected on his previous research expeditions in the North Pacific Gyre which I used to make the first ‘Plastic Reef’ for the exhibition This Is The Future Before It Happened in Glendale College Gallery, Los Angeles. Afterwards I went to his house and to his boat Alguita, which is used for all the research expeditions of Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

Charles Moore.