APRIL 2011

Marine science organization offering rides on research voyage

Environmentalists, researchers and adventure-seekers are being offered the rare opportunity to join one of the world’s leading marine research organizations for its next high-seas expedition in search of plastic ocean pollution.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation, based in Long Beach, California, has 10 open spaces on this eco-adventure, a 20 day voyage from Honolulu, Hawaii to Vancouver, B.C. through the North Pacific Gyre. The July 7-27 trip, aboard a 72 foot racing sloop owned by Algalita’s partner, Pangaea Explorations, will give participants a direct role in advancing research into one of our time’s most pressing environmental concerns.

A gyre is a vortex of ocean currents where plastic debris accumulates. This detritus – cigarette lighters, bottle caps, toys – can kill seabirds and marine mammals that die of starvation, their bellies full of plastic mistaken for food. Smaller plastic pieces, which can act as magnets for carcinogens like DDT at sea, have been found in fish stomachs. On this voyage, Algalita will further its research into these issues.

“We’ll be looking for changes in the accumulation of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre,” says Marcus Eriksen, who will lead the trip’s research as Algalita’s director of project development.

Algalita started studying the North Pacific Gyre in 1999, when Founder Captain Charles Moore first put the plastic pollution issue on the map. A portion of the voyage’s $10,000 per-person fare is tax deductible. Net proceeds will help support Algalita’s scientific research and educational outreach.

A total of only 14 people will be on board the ship, Sea Dragon, including 4 professional crewmembers. Paying participants will take part in all aspects of the expedition, from operating a trawl to collecting micro-plastic bits to hauling aboard larger items found thousands of miles off shore.

Participants will also help to sail and maintain the ship, stand watch during the night, even cook, as they voyage far from land for days. Teamwork is a must. Participants must also be able to lift one-third their body weight.