Rowan Henthorn

Manx marine scientist to study Pacific plastics

Rowan Henthorn, a marine scientist from the Isle of Man, is taking part in the eXXpedition and joining an all-female crew crossing the North Pacific Gyre to study the effect plastics are having on marine life. She writes:

This summer, I’m leaving our little Island, and travelling over 7000 miles to another tiny Island in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii. From there, I’ll board a 72ft sailing boat called the ‘Sea Dragon’ and will set sail with a crew of 14 women; on a voyage over 3000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean to Vancouver. We will be sailing through one of the most remote regions on earth, the North Pacific Gyre, otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The great Pacific garbage patch is thought to be one of the densest accumulations of marine plastic anywhere on earth. The plastic debris accumulates in this region due to the circulation of ocean currents. It is estimated that there is over 1.3 trillion pieces of micro plastic in the gyre and it is the expeditions aim to take samples of the patch and raise awareness of the devastating impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

During the month-long voyage, we make daily trawls for plastics and pollutants, and collect data for a variety of global data-sets and scientific research studies. As one of the marine scientists on board, it is my job to ensure the samples are collected correctly on board, as each study has specific requirements for their data collection.

I have had so much support from the Island during the run up to the expedition and am very proud to have been asked to represent the Island as a UNESCO Biosphere Ambassador. The Island is such a special place and I really look forward to spreading the word about our little gem in the Irish Sea. The solution to the plastic pollution problem starts on land, and it has been really rewarding to work on the plastic reduction plan whilst on the Island with the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. I’m really interested to go out to the North Pacific to see the impact we have had on our oceans, and I hope it will raise awareness and help to further promote a reduction of single use plastic on the Island.

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