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  • Sophie Dingwall

Leg 1 - The Science Bit

A little breather from the bad weather allowed us to geek out and do what we all came here for. THE SCIENCE.

There is a buzz in the air and excitement is running throughout the boat as we all work together to set up our first piece of equipment.

Some jargon is being thrown around and it's at this point, I wish I had paid more attention in my science lessons at school and spent less time setting things on fire with the bunsen burner.

What's the aim?

One of the ways we research the plastics in the ocean is by collecting samples. On this leg we focused on finding out what was floating on the surface of the water.

Once we have retrieved the plastic from the ocean, they are counted up and recorded. We can then use this information to determine how much micro plastic there is per square km in those specific co-ordinates and of course compare it with data collection from previous research undertaken by Exxpediton.

The method to collect the samples is standard so data can be shared easily but of course it's important it's done right. That takes me onto the next question...

How do we do it?

The Mighty Manta Trawl. Called this because, naturally it's awesome and looks a bit like a manta ray. It consists of aluminum wings and an opening with a mesh tail to collect whats lying on the ocean surface.

So this clever little piece of equipment is launched overboard, attached to the boat by a pole and dragged alongside at a very slow speed of 2-3kts for 30 minutes. We repeat this exercise twice and then record our findings.

Plastic pieces large enough are put onto a super clever science machine with the longest name ever (that I can never remember) and this machine can tell us exactly what type of plastic it is and that helps us to figure out what that piece started life out as originally.

The biggest sample had contained nearly 100 micro plastics. These results were quite shocking due to our location, far from the gyre.

What is a gyre?

We now expect to find a lot of plastic in the gyre. An ocean gyre is a large system of circular ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces created by Earth’s rotation. These areas around the globe are known for accumulating plastics and other debris.

It's a strange feeling when collecting the samples, I feel myself wanting to find plastics but also disappointed when we do. On leg 2 we are planning to go right through the gyre and so I'm sure the results will be very interesting!

Night is drawing in and it's been another long day, the crew are still up inputting data and we are pleased to be working towards something so important.

Good night all, tomorrow's another day!

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