News - June 26, 2012

'People started to get seasick when we sailed out of the harbour'

Nils and Lars, two students of Coast and Sea Management at Van Hall Larenstein, will complete their studies in the North Sea. It's turning out to be a fantastic experience, despite a great deal of nausea.

Who? Nils Bloem and Lars van Garderen
What? Students of Coast and Sea Management at Van Hall Larenstein
Why? They are sailing together for ten days on a ship in the North Sea for their final year project: surveying plastic garbage.
Already seasick?
Yes, the nausea is sickening. When we had sailed out of the harbour, people started to get seasick due to the turbulent weather. Before that, we didn't think we could get really seasick, but we have taken sickness pills with us just in case it gets really stormy at sea. But we are not complaining because it's great having this experience of participating in an expedition and living on board.
What exactly are you doing?
We want to get a better idea of the scale of the problem caused by plastic garbage in the North Sea. We are concerned about microplastics, pieces smaller than 5 millimetres. In many scrubs and other skincare products such as peeling gels, shower gels and even toothpaste, there are bits which get washed down the shower drain, bypass the water purification system and end up in the sea. Microplastics which have broken off from big pieces of plastic can also be found floating about.
Such tiny bits, are they really bad?
One of the properties of plastic is that toxic substances stick to it and even get inside it. Health risks arise when humans eat fish or other sea creatures which have in turn eaten plastics with toxic substances on or in them. The results of our research will be used by the North Sea Federation to support its campaign against plastic garbage and for lobbying for stricter regulations against littering the sea with plastic garbage.
Besides the sickness pills, what other preparations have you made for the trip?
Besides preparations for the research and for communication during the expedition, we took precautions mainly on the aspect of safety. We did a maritime safety training course together during which we learned what to do during emergencies at sea. For example, how to use the emergency signals, how life rafts work and how to escape from a helicopter if it falls into the water.
Nils and Lars keep a blog of their comings and goings at sea: