Posted by: Alison Cawood | August 10, 2009

SEAPLEX Day 9 Part 2

Our second post of the day comes to us from Dr. Jim Leichter, who is the faculty advisor on the SEAPLEX cruise.

Jim writes:

8/10/09 4:30 am – I am James Leichter, faculty advisor on the SEAPLEX cruise and an Associate Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I’ve been to sea many times over the course of my professional and graduate careers, but this is my first trip this far from the coastal zone, and first time in the Pacific Gyre. We have now traveled just over 1,000 km (620 miles) due west of the first station where we found plastic pieces in the surface manta tows. We have now found plastic in every tow, 28 out of 28 manta tows since the one on Aug. 6, when the first pieces were found. While the large pieces of debris that are recognizable from the ship – things like detergent bottles, milk crates, toothbrushes – appear relatively spread out, when we collect samples  from the surface layer using the manta nets, there appears to be a nearly continuous stream of small particles. The vast majority of the pieces are small bits that are about the same size as the larger of the planktonic organisms – such as the the fish larvae and small siphonophores.

JimLeichter-8-4-09SEAPLEX faculty advisor Jim Leichter sorts a plankton sample.

Velella-plastic-8-10-09_jimA manta tow from August 10 included  small jellyfish like organisms called By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella) with lots of plastic.  Photo taken by Jim Leichter.

Jar-velella-plastic-8-10-09_jimThe contents of a manta tow containing many By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella) and pieces of floating plastic debris.  Photo taken by Jim Leichter.

Bird-feather-eggs-8-10-09_jimPrevious pictures have shown fish eggs attached to pieces of plastic.  Here are some flying fish eggs that were found attached to a bird feather, a much more natural settlement site.  Photo taken by Jim Leichter.



  1. I wanted to let you guys know that this is a very good investigation that will help people understand the problems that our world is going threw now.Here at my school we have learned about this and well i didn’t even have a clue about this but now im more informed and I can research on it and keep updates thanks to you guys. Hopefully you guys find a way to help get this problem solved or atleast condense it.

  2. well i havea ? haw will thiseffect us in the future and whats the wort ting u seen

    • We don’t know how this will effect us in the future. We don’t even have enough information to know how it is effecting us now! They have seen more large pieces of plastic than many of them expected to, so I think that has been a little troubling.

  3. Hi again. Exciting trip! Can you tell us where you are in relation to the hurricane in the Pacific heading in the direction of Hawaii? Just want to make sure you’re all safe! Also, anxious to hear from J Jones what type of marine mammal sightings he is documenting. He must be thrilled to have so many spotters helping (even though they are primarily looking for plastic)! Thanks, RC

    • They are north and a little west of the hurricane (although I think that it has been downgraded to a tropical storm). They had some rain a day or so ago, and little wind, but other than that, no weather problems. Today, they report beautiful weather and calm waters!


  4. Your photos are amazing! Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

  5. I love reading your reports. My friend at UC Irvine just sent me a link to a short very cool video..called Fish in a Bottle. You and your readers might find it interesting.

    An Ocean of Thanks
    Ric Kraszewski
    La Jolla CA



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