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There's a great many ways to perform oceanic research. Some use impressive looking navy vessels, purpose build platforms, entire fleets capable of storing 1000 lethal whale samples (although this might not qualify as research...), and some just have a 50foot sailing catamaran with a nice image of a green seaweed-blob on the bow.
The Algalita Marine Research Foundation operates the Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita. This friendly looking vessel is equiped with a four meter high A-frame which, coupled with 600 meters of steel cable, can perform surface, mid-water and bottom trawls.
Yesterday, on the 21st of January, the Alquita set out on its fifth sampling journey between Hawaii and the US mainland. It's mission is to examine the marine debris. On previous research journey they found many places where plastic particles outnumber plankton. Between the first research trawl they performed in 1997 and the most recent one last year a five fold increase in plastic quantities in the Gyre has been reported.
A crew blog is maintained on orvalguita.blogspot.com. Hopefully they will keep posting interesting updates on their expedition.
(header title is shamelessly stolen from this excellent blog)