Expedition Embarks To Study Effects Of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
October 3, 2012

Expedition Embarks To Study Effects Of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The Robert C. Seamans, a tall ship owned and operated by Sea Education Association (SEA) will leave port October 3, 2012, on a research expedition. The journey is dedicated to examining the effects of plastic marine debris in the ocean ecosystem, including debris generated by the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

The ship will be out for a 37-day cruise, during which members aboard the Woods Hole, Massachusetts-based research vessel will explore a region between San Diego and Honolulu, Hawaii. This area is popularly called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" because of high concentrations of plastic debris that have accumulated there. Floating debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami will have reached this region by the time the SEA team does, based on computer models and recent observations.

National Geographic journalist Jonathan Waterman will be providing updates on scientific findings and notable events as part of the National Geographic Society's "Ocean Views" news. The expedition will also have a daily update on the SEA website, which will include videos and slideshows of the region.

The scientists aboard the Seamans will be measuring the plastic debris and studying the communities of organisms living on floating plastic, from microorganisms to larger animals such as barnacles and crabs. They hope to determine whether or not this debris is a vector for invasive or pathogenic species.

"This expedition will be one of the first to unravel the impact that plastic pollution is having on our ocean's ecosystem. SEA has over 25 years of experience sampling marine debris and, using this knowledge, we will further investigate the health of our marine ecosystem," Emelia DeForce, the expedition's chief scientist, said in a press release. "Those onboard will have a productive and eye-opening experience with long lasting effects. We will extend this experience to the public at large through our outreach program that will take place during and after the expedition, with the goal to raise awareness of the impact that this long-lived pollutant is having in our oceans."

The 134-foot brigantine-rigged Seamans and her crew of scientists will follow a 2,500-nautical-mile cruise track extending more than 1,500 nautical miles west of San Diego. The expedition will continue SEA's 25-year history of measuring plastics, tar and other marine debris in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.