Day 12a S/V Kaisei: Marine Debris Collection Experiments

15 08 2009

Saturday, 15 August 2009
Lat: 34° 30’ N Lon: 141° 46’ W

Passive Collection Device

Passive Collection Device

The “Beach” and the “Sweeper”

After being introduced to Mary Crowley, of Ocean Voyages Institute and co-founder of Project Kaisei, Norton Smith became interested in investigating the true nature of the plastic contamination in the North Pacific Gyre.

For two months prior to sailing, Norton worked on a variety of projects to make the ship ready to sail; including work in the engine room, electrical systems, constructing a lab area for the six-member science team, and building the video editing suite, all the while planning these collection projects (which are core to the mission). He was convinced that plastic could not be collected with an active netting system, and remain energy efficient. As departure time approached, he began developing ideas for various passive collection systems. It wasn’t until we were underway that he was able to fully turn his attention to building the prototypes.

There are many factors affecting collection methods: winds, waves, swells, collecting plastics and not marine life, identifying areas of higher density and, most importantly, employing environmentally sustainable and economically affordable techniques. Norton has designed, constructed, and has now tested two of the four models designed to meet these criteria.

We launched a small boat and set out the “Beach,” which utilizes wave energy, and the “Sweeper,” which is designed to work with the currents. Norton, assisted by his niece Melanie Smith, deployed both devices and fine-tuned them in the water. Norton said, “It was a challenge to build these devices aboard ship, but very rewarding to see the results.” Both methods effectively collected plastics and the “Beach,” as designed, contained hardly any organic matter.

Mary Crowley said, “I’m both pleased and excited that these experiments have yielded such promising results, especially in an area where we have seen less plastic than in other sampling locations. Norton has done an amazing job under trying circumstances and we’re hopeful that next year’s mission perfecting his passive techniques will have more support.”

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