Maui marine educator prepares for Japan tsunami debris voyage

Published: Apr. 29, 2012 at 10:21 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 30, 2012 at 7:43 AM HST
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Cynthia Matzke
Cynthia Matzke

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui woman is about to set sail from the Marshall Islands to Tokyo. Her 3,000 mile journey is part of a research voyage to study marine pollution, including debris from Japan's tsunami.

Marine educator Cynthia Matzke carefully packed her bags for the adventure across the Pacific Ocean.

The sailing vessel Sea Dragon will be her home for the next three weeks. The boat will sail north from the Marshall Islands, through the Western Pacific Gyre, ending up in Japan. The rotating currents trap plastics and other marine pollution in the gyre.

"I think that the debris from Japan has put this in the forefront of people's minds, but truly, marine debris is an every day issue," Matzke said.

Passengers are paying $9,500 dollars for a seat on the first leg of the scientific sail. Researchers will collect samples of debris and examine the impact on ocean life.

"We'll be looking at stomach contents, looking for animals that are entangled, as well as the density of the gyre itself," Matzke explained.

Matzke will be onboard for the first part of the voyage. During the second half from Japan to Maui, researchers expect to find a significant amount of tsunami trash along their route. The debris is no longer floating on the surface in a field. Matzke will be keeping an eye out for items from Japan that may have strayed from the projected path. She is taking a Geiger counter to check for radiation.

"As we get closer to Japan, I will be doing some testing to see and either dispel or confirm, but to actually put some science behind what the reality of any radiation is," Matzke said.

The South Maui resident plans to film the expedition and create a documentary.

"So I can share these images and really help people get an idea and really wrap around what is out there. There's so much fear and so much projection with all kinds of marine debris, it's such a topic," Matzke said.

Matzke will also share her life-changing experience with audiences in Japan, Korea and Hawaii.

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