Expedition Report 9th August: Collection of Microplastic Samples, Sailing Towards Barter Island, Hershel Island
9th August continued by Meret:
Even though the day was colder and wetter than any so far, it was an important day. It marked the first collection of our microplastic samples. We are collecting water samples for an organization called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC). We will send the samples to a lab in Maine, where Abby Barrows, whom Meret briefly met, will analyze them. Our samples will become part of their world wide study of microplastic in the oceans and rivers. These will be the first samples they have from the NW-Passage. In order to be part of the study and qualify for taking the samples, we had to follow a strict protocol, which we (Salina, Andri & Meret) had been tested on prior to our departure from Nome. This required us to diligently wash out all the bottles, label them in a set manner and rinse the bucket to avoid contamination of the sample. Part of the protocol also required us to wash our hands, which is not a problem in warmer waters but here in the Beaufort Sea .
We bathed our hands in -2.6 degrees Celsius. Needless to say it was cold!! The whole process while fun, did leave us a little frozen and in need of a hot chocolate to warm up. But we were very happy. There in a green recycled Schwepps bottle we had our first ever microplastic sample – 1 liter of icy cold water from the NW-Passage! Even though it is just our first sample, we are super excited to hear the results of the analysis a few months down the line.
As it gets a little dim, the only thing that reminds us there isn’t 24 hour daylight every where else, the rain stops and the horizon clears up a little. Instantly, it feels a little less damp and cold. We are sailing along towards Barter Island, where we plan to stop tomorrow, before continuing to Hershel Island, Canada. Just before midnight Meret spots a boat that isn’t visible on the AIS, unusual. Turns out it’s the US Coast Guard. They call us and ask Dario all sorts of formal questions about who is on board, our last and next port of call, etc. The only info he repeats is: “Please, confirm there are 5 children aged 8 months to 11 years of age on board.”, he sounds a little surprised. “Yes, that is correct.”, Dario replies with a smile and goes on to ask them for weather and ice conditions. Winds between 5-15 knots and mostly ice clear to the Canadian border.