KEWALO BASIN, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two-dozen women from around the world will be embarking on a month-long research expedition to analyze a giant patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean.
The goal: To study the health and environmental hazards caused by plastic – specifically single-use plastic -- and to come up solutions for how to solve the worsening ocean pollution crisis.
On Monday morning, about half of the crew – part of "eXXpedition North Pacific" -- gathered at Kewalo Basin, where they would board a 72-foot scientific exploration vessel called the Sea Dragon.
From there, they are set to sail through the densest ocean plastic accumulation zone on the planet -- also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – making their way to Vancouver, British Columbia. Then, a separate group of crewmembers will embark on a second leg from Vancouver to Seattle.
A study published in March said the garbage patch – about 600,000 square miles of rubbish floating northeast of Hawaii – is larger than Alaska, or twice the size of Texas.
"It can't be defined by an exact box, partly it's moving and also it ranges in concentration from many, many plastic particles in the middle," said Emily Penn, the woman behind eXXpedition. "But then the plastic actually spreads all the way out."
This is actually the 10th eXXpedition voyage, but the first to look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
"We've been working nearly for 10 years on this issue, going out to the ocean, looking closely for problems that plastic pollution is causing and then working back on land on the solutions," Penn said.
While out at sea, the crew will be gathering plastic and pollutants on a daily basis, which will then be used to support scientists all over the world. Studies range from understanding the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and ocean animals to microplastics and the impact of toxins on the human body.
Another interesting fact: The expedition is comprised of all women from all over the world, including the U.S., England, Canada, Slovenia, Norway and Honduras. And the crew is made up of not only scientists, but students, artists, filmmakers, activists and others.
Penn says this will be a particularly significant undertaking, which will set an example for the entire world.
"We've got a really long way to go on solutions, particularly with a lot of developing nations around the world, but what I want to do is lead by example, here in Hawaii, in the states, in Europe, we can really change our ways, we can think about our behavior," Penn said.