Back on the trimaran, Dylan demonstrates how the group conducts a pollution transect in open water. Using an app on his phone, he inputs the GPS coordinates of our starting point.
“We need to travel in a straight line for 20 minutes, and collect any plastic floating on the surface in between the two exterior hulls of the trimaran, which represents a distance of three meters (10 feet). After 20 minutes, I input the GPS coordinates of the end point and we categorize the debris.”
The suggestion that we do a transect came from Dorine on our sister boat, who noticed we were passing through a macroplastic accumulation zone.
Accumulation zones are patches of water where floating debris gathers, due to currents or wind or boat traffic. The concept of a seventh continent of floating waste is a communications shortcut to describe the worst of these accumulation zones, where huge concentrations of garbage obscure the water they’re floating in.
The accumulation zone we were sailing through looked nothing like the shocking images of the islands of waste you might have seen in the media. To be honest, I could hardly see the plastic they were talking about at all, which is part of the problem.