Expedition to remove debris from Great Pacific Garbage Patch begins

Nikolai Maximenko, researcher with SOEST’s International Pacific Research Center, is leading a NASA-funded project FloatEco supporting a collaboration with Ocean Voyages Institute, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Lagrangian Drifter Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Applied Physics Laboratory at University of Washington, Williams College, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada  to recover floating debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to study physical and biological processes controlling the ecosystem based on this debris.

Recently, the 140-foot sailing vessel Kwai departed Hilo, Hawai‘i headed for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There, her crew will collect over 100 tons of plastic garbage and ghost nets, launch a cluster of scientific instruments, retrieve previously deployed settlement panels, and collect other samples and observations.

Ocean Voyages Institute, a California-based not-for-profit founded and headed by Ms. Mary Crowley, is leading the debris removal and less than four days into the voyage, the crew had already removed a variety of plastic debris along with several nets. During the 45-day voyage, the crew will collect garbage with the help of satellite beacons that have been placed on nets by crowd-sourced volunteer yachts and commercial vessels.

Drones on board the Kwai enable the ship’s crew to find the debris, recover it, and store it in the ship’s cargo hold for recycling and re-purposing at the end of the voyage. The research data gathered by the vessel will contribute to understanding the dynamics of floating plastic and its interaction with open ocean marine ecosystems.

Read more in Maritime Executive.