On Saturday 11th November, we left Gosport’s Endeavour Quay on a calm winters evening, as fireworks lit up the sky along the coast. Our North to South survey will cut through #100degreesoflatitude as we sail to the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, via the Canary islands and Cape Verde.
Onboard we have Brian the skipper, first mate Edd, second mate Charly, research assistant Kerry and Lynsey, Charlie, Andy and Thea who have joined the expedition to experience boat life and assist in collecting valuable scientific data. As we left Gosport we were also joined by MCR senior scientist Olly, who trained everyone up in data collection protocols, before leaving us in La Coruna, Spain.
As we left Gosport, spirits were high, with slight apprehensive undertones, as everyone began to digest how much of an adventure stood before us. The calm seas were short lived and during our first night watches of the trip, gale force winds whipped the sea into a frenzy and suddenly conquering seasickness was everyone’s biggest challenge. After a day or so of rockin’ and rollin,’ the seas calmed and as we approached the Bay of Biscay the sea turned glass-like and our appetites returned, as did everyone’s thirst for adventure!
During our incredible 7,000 mile voyage we will be collecting visual and acoustic data to assess the relative abundance of cetaceans, as well as collaborating with other organisations to collect information on marine plastic pollution and Environmental DNA (Edna), contributing to ongoing studies.
DNA is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism into the environment. This could be in the form of faeces, mucous, shed skin or carcasses etc. By collecting water samples every 1,000km along our North to South expedition as well as in the vicinity of animals, we are contributing to a study aiming to be able to assess what species may have been present in the area over the past 7-21 days. The results from eDNA studies are pioneering and exciting as they can be applied to a number research question ranging from molecular biology, ecology, palaeontology and environmental sciences.
Marine litter is found in all of the world’s oceans and seas, with studies estimating that over seven million tonnes of litter reach the earth’s oceans and seas each year. A staggering amount. As we survey a latitudinal slice of the globe, we will be collecting daily (weather dependant) trawl samples of marine plastics to aid the 5 Gyres Institute in their estimates of global marine plastic pollution. To collect the sample, a ‘Manta Trawl’ (it really does look a bit like a manta ray!) is trawled behind us for half an hour, with any marine plastics in it’s path being collected in the Manta’s mouth (a fine mesh net). The net is then emptied and plastics are sorted and documented to share with the 5 Gyres project.
We have a long, long journey ahead of us, passing through exciting areas, with several new projects on the go. This is an amazing and unique opportunity to study a significant slice of the ocean, in areas that are pretty data deficient. We are all excited, raring and ready to go!