Sunshine, Blue Seas, and Plastic??

June 16, 2021

Author: Haylie Schwarzenbach, B Watch, Hawai’i Pacific University

The final count of plastic.

The final count of plastic.

Ship's Log

Position
37° 47.915’N,  147° 56.883’W

Heading
010° psc

Speed
7 kt

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

Weather
Sunny! Seas NNW, 2ft

Wind
N x E, Beaufort Force 3

Description of location
A hair north of the geographic center of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Souls on Board

Aloha one and all! First, I’d like to say thank you for following along on our journey through the Pacific - all of us on the ship are so excited to share these little blurbs with you.

Over the last day or so, we were finally met with some sunshine! As you read yesterday, we finally got the warm sunrays on our faces, and let me say, it was much needed by us all. A big ‘ole moral boost for sure! Tons of blue waves, and mahi mahi along the bow, but we also were met with harsh reality of plastic debris. Throughout our journey, it initially was a rare sight. Large plastic debris is now so common that we station a day look-out on the bow with a radio to communicate plastic in our direct line of passage. This is for the safety of the vessel, especially while we are motor-sailing.

Ian and Haylie sorting plastics from our latest Neuston Tow.

Ian and Haylie sorting plastics from our latest Neuston Tow.

Motor-sailing was taught to us early on (when leaving San Diego), but was a lost part of the journey for the many days we were able to sail through with the Beaufort Force 5 and 6 winds. But these days, we’re at a low 3 and rely on the motor to stay on schedule and achieve our hope of 100 nautical miles a day. Today, our ship is fashioned with our Mains’l, Mainstay’sl, and Forestays’l. She’s looking beautiful coasting through the crystal blue seas.

Today, I personally had morning watch (0700-1300), and was sent to the laboratory. Even before watch began, I heard the echoes of worry and surprise at the plastic accumulated within our Neuston Tow the night before. 1500 pieces were counted by dawn watch, and through our busy morning watch, one individual was sent to count the pieces within the tow (all by hand), and by the end of the watch, we reached 2000 pieces, but afternoon watch is still counting as I write this. Final tally was 2102. I don’t think many people on land realize just how much plastic has made its way to the ocean and how desperately we need to fix that. This tow has definitely given each of us on the ship first-hand experience on the issue, which in a way is beautiful- we all can be advocates for change in this generation.

I think as a whole, we each are incredibly thankful for the place that we’re in and the experiences we’re having. There are highs and lows of the journey- some days are much better than others. Today we reach our half way mark - 3 weeks at sea. It feels like we’ve been here forever, but in the same breath, it feels like we won’t have enough time to see/do everything. It reminds me to jump at every opportunity presented to me and not to take a single second for granted. I miss the land life, but I am enjoying every moment here on the Robert C. Seamans.

Signing off for now!

- Haylie Schwarzenbach, Hawai’i Pacific University / B-watch

PS: Happy 3rd Birthday, Gracie! I miss you so much, and think of you every time I see a pink sky. I hope your birthday is filled with lots of laughter and smiles. Robert, Kai, and Keanu. I miss you boys with my whole heart and hope
everything on our island is sunny. I love you. Mom, Kacie, Amberly, Peyton, Letha, Jeans, other family/friends - I hope that you all are having a great summer! I’m thinking of you often and can’t wait to hug you all. Miss you bunches. With all my love.

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

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