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Trashy Transpac

Oct 2, 2015
2015 Transpac sailors found themselves smack in the middle of the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. The plastic trash fouled keels and rudders and caused at least one racer to power astern to extricate his boat from the mess.

2015 Transpac sailors found themselves smack in the middle of the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. The plastic trash fouled keels and rudders and caused at least one racer to power astern to extricate his boat from the mess.

NOAA

There was not one competitor in this year’s Transpac race who was not affected by trash and debris floating in the North Pacific gyre. The problem has been recognized for some time and shows no signs of improvement. The debris ranges from logs to plastics to shipping containers. 

According to Wild Oat’s Roy Pat Disney, a veteran of 20 Transpacs, there was “at least three bits of junk every minute — timber, fishing nets, plastic, poles that have broken away from commercial fishing nets. You name it, and it’s probably here.”

Another competitor, Gavin Brady, said, “There is a disturbing aspect of this race that had many Transpac competitors concerned: trash.” Brady, tactician on Rio 100, was particularly incensed. “There was so much floating debris out there, “I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe because the high was pushed north so we sailed this year into the waters where it is normally, but this is a great tragedy to have so much garbage out there.” Brady said that he had to back down to clear his keel of a fishing net.

One crew even tracked the trash they encountered by hitting their man-overboard button, plotting the position of every new piece of trash that they encountered.

Such was the alarm that Transpac 2015 partnered with The Ocean Cleanup’s Mega Expedition, where numerous entries in the race will be participating in a plan to survey the North Pacific while en route back to the mainland California coast. The results of this survey will help The Ocean Cleanup calibrate its design for a method to deploy a floating apparatus to collect this trash and dispose of it from the marine ecosystem.

For more information on this program, visit www.theoceancleanup.com.

Edit Module

Oct 10, 2015 09:13 pm
 Posted by  gar37bic

I believe that the rotating nature of the gyre, plus the winds, could be employed to 'power' a very large floating boom - on the order of miles long - that would gradually funnel the trash toward a collection vessel. If enough can be concentrated using passive methods, it's possible that combustion of the plastics could provide enough power to run the collection system. The key is that in a rotating system like this, the speed of angular rotation is slower at the outer edges - like a whirlpool. So a boom system that cuts across a large enough cross section will have differential flow of water past the boom.

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