Plastics in our modern societies are an almost fundamental commodity of daily life. In order to improve the quality of materials that we use – for example to pack our food – we need to understand their cycle of usage.
The Tupac Yupanqui raft (TY) is following up a program of plastic collection in the ocean that tells us where, what type, and how much of some of these plastics end their cycles in a geographical location where no humans, but balsa wood raft sailors, ever visit: the middle of the south-eastern Pacific.
Credit for this activity is attributed to Andrey Chesnokov. Gladly, almost every other day, he stops whatever he is doing to deploy a net known as the manta trawl astern of TY. It is a "manta" because it filters particles from the sea surface in a similar way than that one the elasmobranch named after does. After two hours of trawling, Andrei retrieves the net and analyses the contents for plastics. The task is not easy and is time consuming. He finds plastics among plankton, stingy jellyfish tentacles, fish, eggs of many species and the parts of the vessel, sysal rope and balsa wood, as it disintegrates in the cruise.
In this occasion, featued in the picture, an amphipod was caught among the sample contents.Identification of the types of plastics that reach this remote locations help researchers in the fields of material technology to canalize efforts to develop better substitutes for those polymers that endure through time and do not degrade easily, and yet provide us with the daily life commodity of plastics.
In this way, the kontiki2 expedition serves as an opportunity vessel and provides NIVA and NTNU with valuable samples for quality research. After the time consuming process of sorting contents out, Andrey prepares the net for the next deployment and awaits eagerly until is time for it. As the vessel approaches the continent, the task might become more and more interesting.
By: Pedro De La Torre (2016-02-23)