WHAT IS A GYRE?
A gyre is a swirling vortex. The surface circulation of our oceans is dominated by gyres that may be hundreds to thousands of miles in diameter. It is these gyres that re-distribute and aggregate debris in our oceans. Alaska's shores are the northern fringe of the North Pacific Gyre, which is associated with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
GYRE AT SEA
In June 2013, as part of the Gyre project, an international team of scientists, artists and educators launched an expedition to study marine debris in southwest Alaska. Howard Ferren of the Alaska SeaLife Center led the expedition, along with scientist Carl Safina, the founding president of Blue Ocean Institute. The expedition also included representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Geographic, Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, Anchorage Museum and Ocean Conservancy.
The R/V Norseman traveled 450 nautical miles west from Resurrection Bay along the Kenai Peninsula coast, then crossed the Kennedy Entrance channel to Shuyak and Afognak islands. Along the way, the crew stopped to observe, document and collect shoreline trash. The expedition ended with an intensive cleanup of Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park, a remote area seeing an influx of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Four tons of ocean garbage were collected from just a 4-mile stretch of beach.
Howard Ferren, Alaska SeaLife Center
Carl Safina, Blue Ocean Institute
Julie Decker, Anchorage Museum
Katherine Schafer, Harker School, biology teacher
Kip Evans, Mountain and Sea Productions
J.J. Kelley and Josh Thomas, Dudes on Media for National Geographic