Monday, March 20, 2017
Plastic in the water around us
A couple of days ago an engine strainer – a big metal strainer used to filter the water taken in by the ship’s engine to cool itself – was taken off for a weekly cleanup, and our engineers, knowing that we have an ecologist on board, kindly suggested that I take a look.
It was strewn with technicolor plastic bits, as well as tiny living beings that had got caught in the strainer during the week of filtering through the ocean water at 6-meter depth.
I should say, this unexpected strainer – frankly, I had no idea than an engine even had one - gave me a much clearer vision of what is really happening in the water here than any of the samples I'd tried to look at before that.
Well, this part of the ocean appears to be sadly full of small-sized plastic, even though you won’t see it when looking at the gorgeously, impeccably blue water surface. It’s beautiful, by the way, how this principle seems to hold for everything in life: looking just at the surface, more often than not you are in for some very wrong conclusions.
These plastic bits are submerged in the water column, and establishing the layer, or the depth of their predominant concentration is very easy – one has to simply filter through the chosen depth for a while - but not technically available to me on this cruise.
What I will have a chance to do, though, is take a good look at the strainer a couple more times to see how much it accumulates every week while we’re steaming away northwards from the center of the Gyre.