9. Sep, 2018

Wilson starting its journey towards the Great Garbage Patch

The huge and ambitious project of  24 years old  Dutch Boyan Slat and his team has now reached an important final stage. That is testing his Ocean Cleanup device in the Pacific Garbage Patch  between Hawaii and the US West coast (See also my prior Blog).  The present  system is nicknamed  Wilson after the volleyball of Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away. Wilson  recently left the docks of San Francisco and  is now pulled oceanwards by a tugboat towards the great  North Atlantic Gyre. Yesterday it passed Golden Gate Bridge around 2 pm. After 2 weeks of operational testing, Wilson and its escorte will continue its journey to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, another 1000 nautical miles away. Wilson consists of a 600 m long  floating tube with  a  3 m deep  screen attached underneath to  catch the drifting plastic particles. In contrast with earlier models  the new system will float  in the Ocean with the  circular current of  the gyre.  While drifting with the current the floating tubes will take an U shaped form  slightlymoving  ahead of the particles of the  plastic soup.  A ship will regularly collect the  garbage  and transport it back to  the coast

The team of 70 persons involved in its construction and testing is anxious to find out if Wilson will survive the coming winter and its violent seas,  and do its job in collecting the plastic. If it works out well ,  Wilson will be followed by at least 50 other similar systems,  released in the garbage patch  in coming years. In their attempt to clean up the mess the Ocean Clean up team is also convinced that cleaning up the mess should not prevent to attack the source of the problem.

(adapted from NRC weekend, 8 September 2018).