HEADING FOR THE SARGASSO SEA TO EXPLORE THE MASS OF PLASTIC WASTE WHIRLED TOGETHER BY MARINE CURRENTS IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
5 May 2014 -‐ Port du Marin -‐ Fort de France – Martinique
The 7th continent expedition will leave this year from Port du Marin at Fort de France. It will head due north towards the Sargasso Sea to reach the centre of the North Atlantic gyre, located using Mercator Ocean’s super computer model of marine currents.
The Sargasso Sea, discovered by Christopher Columbus, owes its name to the significant concentration of « Sargassum » seaweed there, which is due to the gyre phenomenon, in other words a circular marine current, in this part of the North Atlantic. This concentration of algae is unfortunately increasingly accompanied by plastic waste produced by humans and washed out to sea in rivers and streams.
Patrick Deixonne, a member of the French Explorers Society, will be directing operations from the laboratory ship. His goal will be to locate and analyse the large masses of plastic waste which concentrate in the oceans. He has proven their existence and is raising public awareness of the effects of human behaviour on nature.
Scientists from CNES (The French Space Agency), ESA (The European Space Agency), Mercator Ocean (The French Centre for Ocean Analysis and Forecasting), MyOcean (The pre-operational EU Copernicus Marine Monitoring service) and the CNRS (French National scientific research Centre) will be taking part, some on the ship and others on land. The 7th Continent Expedition involves many scientists who will enable the expedition to optimize its itinerary in order to find the best pollution convergence zones in the North Atlantic. Along with CNES and ESA they will try to locate pollution which is not yet visible in satellite imagery. The CNRS researchers will use sensors to detect pollutants. Samples of the biodiversity which develops amidst this waste will be taken for laboratory analysis.
The zone will be reached about one week after the departure. The ship will then be spending a week within the gyre in order to characterise it as best as possible and understand the mechanism. The expedition should return around 25 May, with a considerable volume of data for laboratory analysis.