CAPE TOWN – An expedition that has been at sea for over three years collecting data in a bid to gain a better understanding of the impact of humankind on the world’s oceans has been educating members of the public about microplastics in the South African city of Cape Town, where its ship was docked on Wednesday for maintenance.
The Ocean Mapping Expedition, organized by Geneva-based non-profit organization Fondation Pacifique, is a four-year project taking place aboard the 33-meter-long (108-feet-long) Fleur de Passion sailing boat “to observe, understand and map the state of the oceans,” according to the expedition’s site.
“We left Spain three and a half years ago,” said Spanish marine biologist Yaiza Santana, scientific coordinator for the expedition. “We’ve just arrived in Cape Town where we’ll be for a month and a half doing some educational activities.”
The scientists involved in the project have been mapping areas of the oceans with high concentrations of microplastics, according to Santana, who spoke to epa-efe about the expedition.
“During these three and a half years in which we’ve been in the middle of the ocean, and in pristine places, there’s nowhere we haven’t found plastics,” she said, adding that the project was important because the team was compiling data for places where there was none.
The scientific aspect of the years-long expedition involves collecting data on microplastics, noise pollution and coral bleaching, among other factors, to gauge the impact of human activities on the ocean environment.
Besides carrying out scientific research, the team also offers socio-educational and cultural activities as part of its efforts to inform and educate people about the plight of the oceans.
Santana said the team was making the most of its stop in Cape Town to help schoolchildren and members of the public learn about the problems the world’s oceans were facing, and that Tuesday’s workshop focused specifically on microplastics.
Those who attended the workshop examined samples of microplastics collected during the expedition in an exercise aimed at improving understanding about the composition of the microplastics present in the oceans.
The expedition was organized to commemorate the 500th anniversary of a voyage of discovery to the East Indies led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on the instructions of the Spanish Crown.
Members of the expedition would be giving a talk about the project at the city’s Two Oceans Aquarium on Jan. 19.
The ship was scheduled to undergo maintenance at the end of the week, ahead of the final six months of the voyage.
It will leave Cape Town in February, bound for Saint Helena, Senegal and Cape Verde, before it returns to Spain.