Science on board

What makes eXXpedition’s Round the World Science Program so different?

  • Uses standard methods throughout the voyage, making it easier to compare worldwide
  • Working with multidisciplinary scientists & industry looking to tackle the issue in numerous ways
  • Covering both land & sea; 3 marine compartments
  • Contribute to existing data & develop novel insights
  • Identify plastic polymers and their relative contributions to assess sources and understand material flows
  • Provide evidence-based solutions

The science we were involved with during Leg 7:

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Sediment Grabs: is the seafloor a sink for plastic pollution? To answer that question samples are taken in every dock where the boat anchors and then analysed back in the labs.

Manta trawls and ATR-FTIR analysis: how much plastic is in the water surface? how do the types vary and how do ocean currents affect the accumulation? By using the Manta trawl eXXpedition is trying to answer these questions. To get this done it required several steps:

  1. Deploy the trawl
  2. All items that were collected in the Manta's mesh were then sieved
  3. Sorted according to their size
  4. We were lucky to access an ATR- FTIR thanks to Leg 7's main sponsor Perkin Elmer. An instrument capable of identifying the polymer types of plastics, giving us a better idea of what were the plastic types present in our samples.

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Niskin Bottle: by deploying the Niskin bottle down to 25mts, this study aims to compare the amount of plastic particles in subsurface waters compared to the surface. While on board we had to filter the water, to send it back to the labs to be analysed. These samples will be the first global dataset of its kind.

Air Sampling: Are microplastics transported and deposited by air? This study, done in collaboration with King's College London, was created to understand the potential of wind to transport microplastics to remote locations. To catch the samples, 2 buckets were tied to the mast and then the water was filtered prior to sampling in the labs. Studying the air that we breathe gave me a new perspective on the depth and magnitude of the plastics problem.

RapaNuiPPT

As part of the itinerary of work we had to create a presentation about our experience out at sea to the local community in Easter Island. Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is considered one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and it is located at the heart of one of the least studied ocean gyres, the South Pacific Gyre. Which provided with very interesting preliminary results and to the real situation around these areas of converging ocean currents:

There was no ‘island of plastic’, the ocean was pristine the problem is not as it meets the eye. The ocean has turned into a 'plastic soup' of millions of microplastics.

Here a graphic created to show our findings:

findings ENG

Please note that these are very early numbers taken from the samples that we were able to count. eXXpedition will release official results once the Round the World voyage is finalised.

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