In addition to surveying remote beaches for tsunami debris, the Ikkatsu project has signed on to help with Marcus Eriksen’s research into floating microplastics. We’ve been sent a trawl net that is designed to be towed behind a kayak as we paddle and collect samples of suspended microplastic flotsam out in the open water. Dr. Eriksen is one of the leading researchers on this topic and the net is his creation; it’s an exciting parallel study to the main mission of the expedition and the three of us met up a few evenings ago to experiment with possible towing configurations.
On the trip that Steve and I took around Vashon Island a couple months ago, I had the opportunity to try my hand at towing the trawl solo. My initial impression was that it was a lot of effort and some slow paddling. Nothing that we did a few nights back changed my mind at all. Each of us had the chance to hook up to the net and tow it on our own, and then we tried out 2-person and 3-person in-line tows as well. The results were achingly similar.
The mesh on the net itself is incredibly fine, much like cheesecloth. It has to be. The particles that Dr. Eriksen is looking for are tiny and would slip through if the mesh were too large. It was marginally less tiring to tow the trawl when we did it in-line, but it was still slow going. Essentially we were working twice as hard to go about a quarter of our normal speed. We’re not planning on many big mile days over the course of the trip, but the level of effort required is still too high for open coastal conditions.
We’re hopeful that we can come up with some kind of solution before we leave for the first leg of the trip or, failing that, before the second leg starts in early July. There is a possibility that the mesh size could be increased some and I have a feeling that even a small increase in the size of the holes will make a big difference in the way it handles.