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