|Microscopic Plastic in the Ocean|
|Thursday, 08 October 2009|
Annie Crawley's Journal
It passed over from day to night and day again. I had been awake for nearly 24 hours. It was extraordinary working with some really amazing people. I find the entire experience hard to explain because I do not want my emotions to get in the way of my work. The 24 hour intensive ended around 3:00 PM on August 11. After a full day the day before, I stayed up to photograph and film the crazy, bizarre animals that were coming up in Pete’s Oozeki net trawls.
Miriam went into the small boat that afternoon. By this time, the full impact had hit every single person on the ship. For days we have been pulling up plastic in every single manta trawl and after days without sleep, we were all a little bit emotional. We started to see sea skater insects, and in a pan of samples that everyone had picked through, I asked if I could take some to photograph. I had a 105 macro lens and I wanted to photograph these unique marine insects, but as soon as I started to photograph the subjects, I realized there was something more there. These creatures are less than half the size of my pinky fingernails and in every single picture I took there were not only spiders but pieces of plastic and fishing line that I could not see with my naked eye. I thought I was mistaken because if you looked in the petri dish, you saw nothing but water and insects, yet here on my photographs, they were covered with plastic.
And so my mind started hypothesizing. How many pieces of plastic can we not see. If plastic never goes away, it just continues to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, how many pieces are floating around that we cannot see? I wanted an electron microscope to see the particles that must be there. How does this affect us? Plastic has really been around for less than 100 years and did not go into major production until after WWII. I have heard that every single piece of plastic created in the past 50 years still exists today if it has not been recycled. How crazy is that?
Captain Wes has been a mariner for nearly three decades and listening to his perspective on the issue of marine debris and science was fascinating. I do not put blame on anyone because I do not believe it matters who caused any of this. What matters now is what are we going to do about it.
For the past few days we were trying to work out how we were going to rendezvous with the other vessel Project Kaisei had funded with Dr. Andrea Neal as the chief Scientist. Finally, as the sun was setting we could see her in the distance. Within a couple of hours we were going to be exchanging stories on what we had discovered during our first 10 days in the North Pacific Gyre. We were at the halfway point of our mission, yet I truly felt like we were merely skimming the surface.
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