The 5 Gyres Project: Update From the Sargasso Sea
My friends Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins have sent an update from what they have found in the Sargasso Sea. I reported earlier on the two who, along with their shipmates, are taking part in the 5 Gyres project, an attempt to determine how much plastic is floating in the worlds oceans and where it is coming from.
Having just landed in Bermuda, after starting in St. Thomas and crossing the Sargasso, they report having found plastic debris in every trawl that they pulled in on their journey.
The amount of plastic the researchers found is nowhere near the amount they found in the North Pacific Gyre. “But it was still remarkable to find plastic in every single sample,” Cummins said. The accumulation was worse in windrows, surface rivers created by currents populated with a dense, seaweed-like plant called Sargassum that traps the plastic.
“In the Sargassum, we found bottle caps, shot gun shells, and boots,” Cummins said. “I’ve never seen anything like the plastic on the beaches here. They’re just covered with plastic. It’s much worse than the beaches in California.” After studying current trends, the team believes the detritus was carried by the Gulf Stream and started its life as plastic discarded by people in the East Coast.
Cummins and Eriksen will meet with officials in Bermuda, including U.S. Consul General Grace Shelton, and then head back across the Sargasso to the Azores to study a different part of the ocean. You can follow their adventures on the 5 Gyres blog.