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We meet the Portuguese Man O’wars

September 12, 2009

I was awoken, again this morning, by the sound of Captain Moore shouting about a buoy he’d seen a few hundred miles in front of the ship. Bill was on watch, upbeat and alert, always excited to be on “plastic patrol” as he calls it-looking through the window at the helm searching for debris in the distance.

Moore snatched up the floating buoy in a large net and observed that bird feces on one side indicated it’d been used as a floating perch.
Half of it’s white exterior was also covered in green algae and gooseneck barnacles. After snapping a few photos I put it on top of the other “loot,” but the buoy collection is piling up quickly. In just two days Moore has found nine buoys.

And today the crew collected the first round of plastic bottles-three separate water bottles, some with algae and barnacles growing on them. One opaque plastic bottle has bite marks out of it and looks like it’s been attacked by a group of hungry sharks. (This is highly unlikely but the jagged bite marks immediately conjure images of Jaws).

During the afternoon we took a quick swim. As we near our destination the ocean becomes calmer and calmer since the garbage patch is located in an area of low winds. The entire Pacific is starting to look like a giant piece of glass.

Bonnie and Bill tried out their underwater video camera and I practiced free diving with my camera and a weight belt. It takes at least 10 pounds to keep me from bobbing like an apple at the surface.

But our afternoon swim quickly ended when Bonnie started yelling and swam for the boat. Bill was right alongside her and, of course, with thought of sharks circling in my head I looked all around to see if I could spot anything. Nothing but deep blue water.
I soon realized what she was startled by when I felt a sharp sing on my hand. I yelped too and swam for the boat. Apparently we’d all been stung by Portuguese man o’wars.

My welts soon disappeared but Bonnie had a thin line on her back and under her arm where the man o’war’s tentacle had wrapped around her.

A Man O'War Sting while out in the Ocean. photo by Jeff Ernst

A Man O'War Sting while out in the Ocean. photo by Jeff Ernst

Yikes! Bill is shouting from the bow right now-apparently Jeff has seen more floating plastic. Got to run!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 6:13 am

    Ouch, Portuguese Man o’War can really sting, and the venom reaction can be highly unpleasant.

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