Spotting and Collecting Plastics

27 08 2010

23 August 2010 Monday
Latitude 33 degrees 28 minutes North
Longitude 146 degrees 25 minutes West

The seas are very flat. We have a slight breeze and occasional rain squalls. We begin another day of debris collection. We decide to keep our inflatable dinghy in the water, and we have three different teams alternating on collecting plastics out of the ocean.
Nick Mallos and Kaniella Lyman-Mercereau have become the “A” team at diligently spotting and collecting plastics. They have spent the most hours both on and off watch in the inflatable and spotting from the rig. Their energy and expertise is greatly appreciated. Nick is an energetic and skilled representative for Ocean Conservancy. Kaniella is a natural seaman and his belief in the project makes him a fine representation of Ocean Voyages Institute. The collaboration between Ocean Voyages Institute/ Project Kaisei and Ocean Conservancy is well represented by the team spirit onboard Kaisei. Others that have been very helpful with retrievals and spotting include Drew, Nikki, Stephen, Kelsey, Henry, Gabe, Annie, Robin, Chip, George, Andrew, Tim, Juanita and Mary.

Kaniella and Nick bring back about a 300 lb multi-colored ghost net, with green, brown, bright blue, aqua, yellow, and orange strands. It is a fragment of a much larger net, and contains at least 20 types of net. We see fish trapped and strangled by the netting. Crabs of all sizes, gooseneck barnacles and mussels are part of the maze of the net. We carefully shake the nets and then by hand return the remaining living creatures to the ocean.

Every evening, typically after sunset, we have meetings so that the team can share experiences they’ve had during the day collecting and sighting, as well as for general brainstorming. Mary Crowley, as Project Kaisei Expedition Leader, is able to relay project information and compare this year’s expedition with last years. She leads discussions about what we will be doing over the next days, and provides historical perspective on the marine debris issue. Nick also is able to contribute with his scientific background and interest in the marine debris issue.

Kelsey Richardson graduated from UC Berkeley and did her thesis on the marine debris issue. She is a welcome addition to Project Kaisei/Ocean Voyages Institute.

Nicole Caputo (Nikki) is engaged in graduate studies at Humboldt State concentrating on the area of Marine Debris, and she shares interest in the concept of “fishing for plastics” with Mary Crowley. Nikki offers worthwhile insights and valued energy to Ocean Voyages Institute. Everyone on board likes this poignant quote from Nikki’s paper.

“Burgeoning populations infected by an ethos of disposability coupled with plastics’ relative indestructibility have helped to catalyze a plastic pollution crisis. Waste and pollution are cancers of consumer society, and disposable consumer cultures have been metastasizing globally in pandemic proportions.”

Nicole Caputo, 2010, Drowning in a Sea of Plastics


Ham Radio Communications / Transects for NOAA

27 08 2010

22 August 2010 Sunday
Latitude 34 degrees 33 minutes
Longitude 145 degrees 19 minutes

Sailing Master Stephen Mann has been using his ham radio expertise for phone patches that assist our mission. The Pacific Seafarers Net, the Manana Net and the California- Hawaii Net and the whole ham radio community have allowed us to have brief talks with our families, and to talk to the techs who are helping us get our satellite communications system up and operating. All of us on board extend our sincere gratitude for the time and assistance given to us by the wonderful ham radio operators. Ham operators are often the unsung heroes who save lives in medical emergencies through phone patches with doctors, and by helping people with important communications all over the world.

Today started out overcast but then cleared. The debris is similar that encountered in the last 72 hours. Today, we are doing transects for NOAA, charted by Captain Vince Kelly. We are continuing our debris logging and counting system. Everyone is working hard sighting and cataloging individual pieces of garbage. We have one person on the bow, and one to two people up in the rig who are spotters. Another person is stationed in the wheelhouse and via radio from the spotters they catalog all trash sightings. There are times when it’s challenging to keep up with reporting the description, latitude, longitude and volume of sightings.

After the two transects, at the end of the day, we set sails and headed SW with twelve sails flying. Another great night with moon, stars and a short rain squall.

Kaisei at Sea / What We Are Finding

27 08 2010

21 August 2010 Saturday
Latitude 34 degrees 36 minutes North
Longitude 143 degrees 24 minutes West

We are seeing a lot of small to medium size garbage, similar to yesterday afternoon. Pieces of rope, chunks of ghost net tangles (relatively small, between 25 lbs to 300 lbs), twine, small pieces of plastic of all colors, pieces of plastic strapping intermixed with occasional bottles, buckets and containers. We have not yet encountered the larger density of consumer items we found on last year’s expedition. All the items we have been finding seem to have been in the ocean longer than the items we found on last year’s expedition. The ocean current systems have a way of sorting similar things together, and we are clearly in an area with lots of chunks broken off of larger ghost nets and fragments of many types of plastic. The swell is about 2-3 feet, large enough to mean we are only spotting a quarter of the plastic bits that size. We are still seeing a significant amount!

Everyone onboard is moved by seeing our garbage floating around us mid-ocean!!!

The crew of KAISEI includes sailors, surfers, scientists, teachers, environmentalists. By sharing this experience, everyone is becoming an advocate for the world’s oceans. Seeing marine debris, and the broken down small pieces of plastic everywhere, helps to inspire people to create changes in their own lives, and to educate others about the need for stewardship of our precious ocean world.

We declared a party Saturday night, so after another delicious dinner prepared by our Chef Adam Chang, people dressed up a bit, enjoyed brownies, sea shanties and Art Mercereau reading from Melville. It was a spectacular evening! The good spirits were enhanced by a beautiful sunset and moonrise, creating a magical atmosphere on the decks of KAISEI.

Collaborations, Trash and other Project Kaisei News

23 08 2010

20 August 2010 Friday
Latitude 34 degrees 43 minutes North
Longitude 140 degrees 36 minutes West

Today we are in an area with more breeze and we are seeing less trash. We began our marine debris sightings on August 16th and sightings have been increasing each day. We are heading further West toward the high-pressure area and the locations recommended by NOAA and by the University of Hawaii oceanographers. We expect to see heavier concentrations of garbage in the next few days.

This is Kaisei’s second expedition to the North Pacific Gyre, following on from last year’s successful trip. Some of the data is still being analyzed, but results will be coming shortly, including more information on toxicity. This year’s expedition is a collaboration with the Ocean Conservancy, in honor of their 25th anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup. Project Kaisei is also doing work with NOAA and the University of Hawaii oceanographers to complement some of the models they have created for locating marine debris at sea.

In other news, Project Kaisei is in the Clinton Global Initiative this year, which has a new conference sub-theme, called “Rethinking Waste.” Much more news to come in the coming months, so stay tuned!

If you are in Hong Kong from Sept 6-16th, you can come see the exhibit that Project Kaisei is launching, called “Inside the Plastic Vortex” which will be held at a major mall in Hong Kong. It will then be displayed at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from Sept. 27th for a week.

Sunrise, Marine Debris and International Coastal Clean-Up

23 08 2010

19 August 2010 Thursday
Latitude 35 degrees 24 minutes North
Longitude 138 degrees 10 minutes North

This morning we saw our first lovely dawn. Since our departure, we have had overcast skies. Leaving San Francisco (August 14, 2010), we saw dolphins followed by whales near the Farallones Islands, part of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.

Part of our passion for cleaning the global ocean comes out of concern for marine mammals and other ocean life that is killed each year by ingesting plastics or being caught in ghost nets.

With the overcast skies clearing, we enjoyed a colorful sunrise. With enough breeze for sailing, our engine is off. George Schneider went astern and discovered a bright green net caught on our prop. One of our expedition’s major operational concerns is catching a net or a line in the propeller and damaging the ship. We came up into the wind to slow the ship and sailing master, Steven and crew members Kaniella Lyman-Mercereau went into water to free the net. Nets like this one roll over in the ocean, catching other nets, sea life and plastic debris becoming huge “ghost nets” that are a hazard to shipping, reefs, and sea life.

The rest of the morning was spent enthusiastically recording and collecting trash, boats from KAISEI and from our inflatables. The spirit of the crew is great, knowing the importance of our mission. Ocean Conservancy’s 25th International Coastal Clean-up has begun in the gyre (August 19, 2010) in collaboration with Ocean Voyages Institute/Project Kaisei.

Please vote for Kaisei in the Month of May

14 05 2010

You will like this video! Please spread the word, and vote every day in May, to help us get back out to the North Pacific Gyre this August on our 2nd expedition, this time to bring back a lot of debris!

You can vote here

Also, send us your videos, 30secs or less, like this one, that can help motivate people to Vote Kaisei in May! We will post it if we can! Please upload to Youtube or another site, and send us the link to:

We need your help! Motivate the world! We can really all make a difference on this.. the momentum is here..for our ocean…and you!


Chinese Art for Project Kaisei

12 10 2009

10 Chinese modern artists will exhibit their new plastic related art in honor of Project Kaisei in Hong Kong on October 15th at the Schoeni Gallery in Central. Proceeds of the sale of these pieces will go to Project Kaisei. A special thanks to Nicole Schoeni for putting the event together, and for inspiring these young artists from China to make new creations based on their view of the ocean and the problem that Project Kaisei is highlighting, related to marine debris. This is a great start to a dialogue on this topic in the mainland. Doug will be speaking at the gallery on Oct 20th (7:30pm) on Hollywood Road.,com_schoeni/id,101/view,eventdetails/