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Jon T. Howard: Blog

Our shift ended at 2 am and we headed to bed to get 4 hours sleep before our 6 am – 6 hour shift was set to begin. The North Atlantic was still tossing the Sea Dragon around mercilessly and I didn’t get the best sleep. The great thing about the 6am –Noon shift is you get to watch the sun rise which from an ocean view is very majestic. Once we had the light of day, it was great to ride the swells sailing full steam ahead. Around 9 am we had our first dolphin sighting as a group of them swam with the ship crisscrossing from side to side surfing in our wake.. One of them even leapt out of the ocean right along the side of the Sea Dragon. Amazing! Late in the morning we had another encounter with another tanker/freighter ship but the closest it came was about 3 miles. That still looks really close after not seeing anything but a few birds for days. Due to the heavy swell conditions we will not be trawling today but pushing North because we are trying to beat a low pressure system that [...]
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I woke up today at 10:30 am after getting to sleep around 6:30 am. I was greeted with a big bowl of oatmeal Anna had made for me since it was my birthday. My next watch was set to begin at 12 noon but I could hear everyone up on deck very excited so I rushed up to see what was going on? Marcus was on the bow pointing at a long line of Sargassum and telling everyone to grab the nets and cameras and keep a look out for plastic. Sure enough there it was mixed in with all the Sargassum.… everywhere. Marcus explained it is all pushed together due to a Windrow which is where two currents converge and push the Sargassum and plastic together. We spent the next hour fishing out as much as we could reach. We found a bunch of bottle caps, a plastic bag, fishing line, broken fragments of plastic large and small and even a large fisherman’s boot covered with Barnacles. As excited as we were to find evidence it was also a sad reminder that we must do something about the world’s dependence and use [...]
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I was up through the night on the 2-6 am shift helping Anna and Marcus do some night trawling and videoing the samples we found. I shot some great footage that I will post when I get back to land in Bermuda. I am very thankful to have the Tactical Solar Lites that Hybrid Lights http://www.hybridlights.com/ gave the crew for the mission because we have been working every night and it is very dark once the sun goes down especially when there is cloud cover like last night. Every trawl has come up with some bits and pieces of plastic but not as much as Marcus says www.Algalita.org has found in the North Pacific, That is the good news but the bad news is we are still at least 500 miles from the center of the gyre where they believe there will be a denser accumulation of debris due to the currents in the Sargasso Sea. After we pulled up the trawl this afternoon we finally put up our main sail and jib(Yankee) sail for some great sailing. The feeling is so much different from when we are using [...]
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My day began at 5:45 am and our first task of the day was to put out the trawls for another round of gathering debris and marine samples. It was an amazing sunrise and the beginning of a beautiful clear warm day. During my 6-12 shift we pulled in our first large piece of plastic floating in the middle of the ocean. I was on watch at the front of the ship and spotted 5 other smaller nylon ropes and colored plastics floating by as we made our way north towards Bermuda. After lunch I rested and did some reading while the A watch took over helping Anna and Marcus with their research. Late in the afternoon the swells and winds were small enough for us to stop the Sea Dragon and go for our first swim. I pulled out the gear Body Glove (http://www.bodyglove.com/) had provided for the trip and jumped in off the deck. The water felt so good and was perfect to swim in. I snapped off a few pictures of everyone swimming and got a picture of the EcoUsable (http://www.ecousable.com/) logo on the side [...]
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Today was our first day of research and trying out the equipment to gather specimens. Working as a team we deployed the Manta Trawl to pull alongside the boat and did visual observance for plastic debris. Both times we deployed the trawl we captured fragments of plastic. We also spotted a few large pieces of plastic and even picked up one with the net around midday. We had to slow down to about 2 knots while using the trawl but used sail power the rest of the day which is a completely different feeling then when we use the engine. Other than that, we had a flying fish jump onto the boat that Anna Cummins dissected to see if it had any plastic in its stomach. Luckily it was all clear. We rotate taking turns cooking and tonight Ivan and I were in charge of dinner. We whipped up a hardy leek stew with beef, mushrooms and broccoli and big pan of corn bread for our 9 person crew. Everyone loved it and had seconds which is always a good sign. Our first mate John Wright from England had never [...]
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