by Andrew Walden
Hawai’i Free Press put questions to organizers of the ill-fated 600m ‘Ocean Cleanup’ (OC) boom last reported to be broken in the North Pacific and under tow 800nm to Hawaii.
The boom launched from San Francisco Bay September 8, 2018. In late November, project developer Boyan Slat announced that the boom was not collecting plastic garbage as expected. USA Today reported, “To help fix the problem, the primary vessel that oversees the project is expected to arrive in San Francisco Friday or Saturday (Dec 7 or 8) to take on a new crew and resupply, including special equipment to help modify the device….”
Modifications apparently included “widen(ing) its span so that it catches more wind and waves to help it go faster.” The device then fell apart Saturday, December 29.
The broken boom, tagged “Wilson” and “System 001” by OC, is being towed very slowly--between one and three knots--and is not expected to arrive in Hawaii until mid-January.
The project collected only 200kg of plastic before collapsing. (Update: Spokesperson now claims 200kg was a typo correct number is 2000 kg.) This is an improvement over a previous 100m iteration of the project deployed in 2016 off on the Netherlands which collected zero plastic before failing after just two months. NBC News reports Slat, a 24-year old college dropout, “has raised more than $40 million from tech entrepreneurs and thousands of donors”.
In contrast, five volunteer ‘Opala Pickers’ armed with hand nets report they fished 1.5 dumpster loads of trash from Ala Wai Canal and Harbor after 90 minutes of work December 2, 2018.
Here are their answers provided by Ocean Cleanup spokesperson Rick van Holst Pellekaan:
Can you provide details on the arrival of your damaged clean-up boom in Hawaii?
On Saturday, December 29th, unexpectedly one of the tow heads, together with an 18 m piece of floater pipe with two stabilizer frames, was found to be drifting away from the rest of Wilson.
No prior indications were seen for such a thing to happen, so this came as a surprise for both the offshore crew and the engineering team onshore. The offshore crew has handled the situation very well and has immediately secured the broken piece and reported the incident to the onshore team.
This operation has been finalized without any loss of parts of the system, or safety risks for the crew, the environment or for passing marine traffic.
Is (tow boat) Maersk Transporter pulling the boom?
Yes, the system has been secured and connected to the Maersk Transporter, and started its journey to shore on January 2.
When/where in Hawaii do you expect to reach port?
A very careful estimate was that we wouldn’t be able to sail faster than 1 knot (1 nm/hr), but the first day has given room to raise that estimate to 2-3 knots, which would cut the transfer time in half or even a third. Transfer to Honolulu is expected to take around 15 days from January 2, but could easily be 1-2 days faster or slower. The exact location in Hawaii is still being decided.
Do you have a contractor or a site to do the repair work?
The Ocean Cleanup will work with its own onshore team.
Were you able to retrieve all of the pieces of the boom?
The system broke on just one place, and the piece drifting away from the system was recovered immediately. All pieces of the boom, along with 200 kilograms of recovered plastic, will be transported back to shore.
Surfline: XXL SWELL DEVELOPING FOR HAWAII
Weather: EXTRATROPICAL cyclone 'explosively deepens' in 'BOMBOGENESIS' phenomenon
Link: Maersk Transporter tugboat
Deep Sea News: The Continued Boondoggle of the Ocean Cleanup
The Verge: WHY SO MANY OF US WANTED TO BELIEVE IN AN OCEAN CLEANUP SYSTEM THAT JUST BROKE
Background: Surprised by Wind and Waves in Pacific: Giant Plastic Eco-Boom Breaks up