Journey to the Center of the Gyre!

July 15, 2021

Author: Becca Cox, C Watch, Wellesley College

Braiding challah with Melia in the galley

Braiding challah with Melia in the galley;

Ship's Log

Position
36° 14.359’ N, 147° 33.529’ W

Heading
330° psc

Speed
7 kts

Sail Plan
Mains’l, main and fore stays’l, jib

Weather
Sunny! For the first time in ages! Seas SSE, 2ft

Wind
ENE, Beaufort Force 1

Description of location
The center of the North Pacific Gyre!

Souls on Board

As today’s assistant steward, I expected a full day in the galley, pleasantly warm and away from the cool, cloudy weather on deck. Instead, the day has transformed into a magnificently sunny and calm day—so calm that we actually turned on the engine! This morning, while I was prepping breakfast with Melia, I saw the beginnings of a sunrise through the salon porthole—the first colorful sunrise in weeks! While there was still a lot of cloud cover, there was a gash along the horizon that let gold shine through. Over the course of the morning, the sky cleared up almost completely (as the wind died almost completely), giving us great visibility into the water. We spotted a school of mahi mahi swimming alongside the boat; they seemed to be glowing beneath the surface! We threw in a line, but weren’t able to catch one.Plastics

We’ve been on the lookout for shipping containers and big mats of plastic and netting, which we want to avoid hitting with the ship, and spotted a tangle of trash today off the starboard side. The conditions were perfect for Henry and Kelsey to head out in the small motor boat and collect some of the plastic for my research project. What they brought back to the ship looked like a warped laundry basket. Now we know where our laundry baskets end up.

After lunch (which featured a whopping 7 challahs to feed 27 bread-eating people), I returned to the deck from the galley, this time heading to the headrig, where we watched a beautiful, iridescent group of fish swim along with us at the bow of the ship. It felt a bit like we were fish, too, as we all pushed forward through the water toward the horizon.

We were soon called down from the headrig to get ready for class, the group murmuring with a bit of dread as we thought we were heading into a deck practical. But, with the celebration of Kelsey’s birthday and our arrival at the center of the gyre, our deck practical was replaced with a top secret ceremony that may or may not have involved chanting, a plastic dragon, and a dip in a 5,000 m-deep swimming pool.

The center of the gyre is not quite the popular image of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It is striking in an even scarier way. There are many big pieces of plastic, like nets, laundry baskets, crates, and traffic cones, but there are countless tiny plastic fragments floating at the surface. During our swim, Lexi actually plucked up pieces of plastic from the surface to put in the trash on the boat.

Some feelings and experiences I can’t do justice in a blog post: the feeling of “what did I just do” after jumping off the headrig (before landing (incredibly ungracefully!) in the ocean); looking down while swimming and seeing endless blue below; seeing the sea stretch on forever around us at forward look-out. After a beautiful, richly colored sunset, the clouds began to roll back in. Hopefully they’ll fade away tomorrow and give us another beautiful day.

- Becca Cox, Wellesley College / C Watch

Happy birthday, Mom! I hope you have a great day, and that Dad and Sam do something special for you! As always, sending love to family and friends. Hi Subha!

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 | dkarlson@sea.edu

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