Hello from Chile! Our plastic research expedition with the 5 Gyres Project has set sail in the Beagle Channel and is just coming up on the Magellan Strait. I’ve been chatting more with Anna Rotander, our on-board scientist, about her work — while we wait for the seas to calm so that she can take some water samples. Anna is part of a research facility that studies human and environmental exposure to fluorinated, chlorinated and brominated chemicals. Her lab does research on where these chemicals are found, in what quantities and also documents methodologies on how to record them accurately.
The crew of the Sea Dragon has been joking for the past two days that there’s a postcard worthy photo around every corner. We’re coming up upon the Sarmiento Glacier and will anchor there for a bit before continuing on into the night. It is supposed to be the most spectacular glacier in this area of Chile. While we wait for it to appear Anna and I have been chatting about her work. She is a researcher at the MTM Research Center at Orebro University in Orebro, Sweden and is here taking plastic samples to bring back to her laboratory in Sweden.
The chemicals we are looking for are, “extremely strong, they don’t break down and it gives them these unique properties. They are used in gore tex clothing, teflon pans, ski wax products, surfers use them. They’re also found in cleaning products and firefighting foam,” Anna said. “We want to see if we can find them in the plastic accumulation zones.” These persistent organic pollutants — or POPs — are everywhere but in larger density in the Northern Hemisphere where there is a larger human population and more industry.