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Boaters leave Hawaii to map Pacific plastic

August 4, 2015 - 1:30am

HONOLULU — Thirty boats left Hawaii this weekend on a unique mapping mission: To record the size and location of the plastic garbage over 1.4 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

The “Mega Expedition” is analyzing the trash between Hawaii and the West Coast as part of a larger effort to eventually clean up what’s known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

It’s sponsored by The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch organization founded by then-18-year-old Boylan Slat, and is the first step of the group’s plan to build a device that would start removing the garbage by 2020.

The data gathered over three weeks as part of the mega Expedition will be more extensive than what’s been collected in the past 40 years, according to the group.

The boaters will use GPS and a smartphone app to search for and record the plastic. They will take samples and ship them to the Netherlands, where the plastics will be counted and recorded.

Around 20 of the participating boats are yachts that participated in the Transpac sailing race from the mainland to Hawaii. They’ll record the plastic as they head back to the west boast.

One of those yachts is the 51-foot Adrenalin, whose co-skipper is Kaneohe, Oahu resident Andy Bates.

Bates said he didn’t see any garbage when he first started completing the race in 1998, but this year his rudder was damaged by debris.

“I was horrified at the amount of trash in the ocean,” said Bates, who will start mapping later this week after the rudder is repaired.

Most of the garbage patch consists of very small plastic pieces suspended below the ocean’s surface. It was discovered by Charles J. Moore in 1997 as he returned home from a Transpac race.

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