The first voyages with SV Antigua are over, we sailed from the Netherlands to Spitsbergen, from Harlingen to Longyearbyen. On the way we started our plastic project for the AWI, the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany.We have found lots of garbage on land and at sea. It was clear before, we would find more than we could ever collect and weigh, but how much it was in the end, was still surprising.
We had started with the transect monitoring already along the norwegian coast, where the water often looks turquoise and clear. But when you sit for an hour beside the reeling, watch nothing but the water and control a seven meter wide area beside the ship, then you notice, that the water is by far not as clean as you thought. Sometimes we were glad, that three or four guests took part in one transect, as it was impossible to note everything alone.
Sometimes plastic garbage is also great to practise man over board maneuvers – when you find whole islands of plastic stripes floating in the water, which are usually used to pack pallets. The Captain decided then to get all this out the water, and we were succesful within eleven minutes. This island alone filled half a big pack (these huge white bags that are used on ships), and this island was obviously willingly thrown over board, and when we found it, seabirds were trying to feed on algae in between, and were eating algae and plastic . . .
In Spitsbergen we dedicated one afternoon of our voyage to clean one beach. We measured a certain area, collected, sorted and weighed the garbage. Resonance under our guests was great – almost everybody participated, with big enthusiasm and had visibly fun to collect significant data. It is a hard and dirty job. We found rubber boots, a barbiehorse, ammunition, computer parts, many fishing ropes, half full oil cans, and plasticbottles of every kind.
It is always shocking, what you find, and big parts of it – besides the fishery garbage – is according to the imprints on the garbage normal waste washing up from Europe. Also during the next voyage we will collect again. And find again lot, this we know already.