By: Peter Murphy
Tonsina Bay, Alaska – This week, I’m participating in the GYRE Expedition, an exciting and unique project that brings together scientists, removal experts, educators and artists on the R/V Norseman to explore and raise awareness of the marine debris on remote Alaskan shorelines.
The team aboard the vessel includes artists from all corners of the United States and the United Kingdom. The science representatives include staff from the Smithsonian, the Ocean Conservancy, the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, the Blue Ocean Institute, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program. As we stop at debris aggregation beaches at Gore Point, Shuyak Island, and Hallo Bay, we in the science team will collect data on debris densities and composition while artists collect debris and capture their impressions for works. Those art pieces will be displayed at the Anchorage Museum’s Gyre Exhibit next year. This offers a unique chance for on- scene discussions and linkages between observation and measurement of debris on the beaches, and the translation of those observations into impressions that will become art that can raise awareness. Throughout it all, we’ll be filmed by a National Geographic crew, who will turn the footage into a series of web episodes later in the year.
We’re excited to be part of this effort, since it gives us the chance to get on-the-ground data in remote locations that would be very difficult and expensive to access without partnering in a pre-existing mission. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to cross-pollinate the diverse knowledge and experience within the team, combining scientific data and experience with the artists’ impressions of place, space and impact, and ability to convey that through their work.
I’ll try to check in as much as possible throughout the expedition, though with our remote location that may be more “intermittent” than “frequent.” Hopefully the same can be said for rain!