NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

At-Sea Detection: Some Observing Observations

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As I mentioned, observing marine debris is not an easy job. The ideal method would be having Big Eyes attached to a stabilizer or gyroscope (to keep the ship’s motion from moving the field of vision so much), anomaly detection software (to make up for our less-than-perfect spotting abilities), and a video feed (so we could save all the footage and examine it at our leisure or have a chance for a veteran observer to check our identification skills). That’s not going to happen, so the next best method is just looking through the Big Eyes.

Here’s a picture of me using the Big Eyes. Note the slightly hunched posture—it’s either that or on tiptoes, depending on which way you have to tilt the binoculars to keep the horizon in your field of vision. Next best in terms of observing, but far better in terms of keeping nausea at bay, is what we’ll call Medium Eyes: looking through binoculars. I took a picture of Kelly using the Medium Eyes. We spotted a few pieces of debris today through the Medium Eyes. Last on the list of observing power at distance, but essential if your stomach has fallen prey to seasickness, is Small Eyes, the human eye. The Small Eyes are actually best for spotting debris within a few hundred yards of the ship. Stephanie is shown here demonstrating the Small Eyes.

Today, we spotted 3 or 4 buoys, one with a bird floating on it. I’m including a photo of one so you can see how challenging it is to see with the naked eye. Naturally, the magnification is not real—I just blew it up in Photoshop. But you can get an idea of how important the binoculars’ magnification is. It’s also tough to see anything just below the surface of the water unless you’re almost on top of it, between the sun reflecting on ripples and the whitecaps. Today the seas were much calmer than yesterday, so the whitecaps weren’t nearly as big a challenge.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

2 thoughts on “At-Sea Detection: Some Observing Observations

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