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Viking ExpeditionWritten by Stiv Wilson

Present Position– about 900 miles east of New York City

Yes, there is a report of 14-17 icebergs that have come out of the northwest via the Labrador current which tracks southeast between Canada and Greenland into the open Atlantic. We’ve closed the front water tight bulkhead as a precaution and we’re watching steely-eyed for anything out of the ordinary. It’s the real deal out here now–no more beach party with no wind. We’re making good progress to the Northeast, steering about 045 degrees true (vs. magnetic) as we make our run for Iceland. We ‘re making very good speed as we approach the Grand Banks, an area of the Atlantic known for its fertile fishing grounds and dangerously shallow waters. The average depth jumps from 4,000 meters to just 30, which means big waves shoal steeper there. But to the east is the ice as of our last reports, so it’s better to face a low pressure over the banks than try to skirt around them and face ice. Let’s be clear to all the mothers out there– we are not in danger. The vibe on board is cautious, but extremely positive.

We made popcorn and told jokes. This boat can handle the conditions, no problem. That said, the crew is getting to know what a true expedition is–we have 25 knots of wind with gusts to a near gale at times ( 35 knots ). The forecast has consistently underestimated the swell size. We’ve reduced our sail quite a bit (mainsail, third reef and staysail for you sailing nerds out there ) as we’re not interested in going too fast–we want to maximize the plastics research.

We’ve had a minor setback however. One of our three trawls, the mini-high speed trawl broke a weld today under heavy, heavy load. But we’re still doing the typical mantra-trawls, about two a day and possibly more as we gain the sub-polar gyre with near endless sunlight at solstice. Every trawl has had plastic and in the last one we pulled a few discernible bits of pollution– styrofoam coffee cups, most likely trash thrown overboard from careless deckhands on freighters in the shipping lanes. Other than that, we’ve observed a pretty dense amount of photo-degraded plastic, and some big bits of plastic bags, as well as some fishing line. We’ve also observed quite a bit of derelict fishing gear, most likely lost from fishing vessels working the Grand Banks.

Viking CrewIt’s wet on deck, but the crew is keeping in good spirits. They’re getting banged around a bit, but everyday we get closer as family and work better as a team. Marcus, Cbox and I are pretty amazed at how tough this crew is–and frankly, how helpful. Aly gets the MVS (Most Valuable Sailor) award, two days running as she’s constantly helping everyone whether she’s on duty or off. Top notch folks, all of them.

On deck, we’ve taken a few 12 foot waves over the stern, dousing us, but we’re still in fairly warm water from the Gulf Stream, so it’s not too terrible out there. This morning, the rain eased up, thankfully though we haven’t seen the sun today. The image of the sea on deck is gray on gray, and the swell is gradually getting more organized; longer period which makes life below deck less jolting. Below deck is where seasickness is the most apparent. Above deck, it’s life in a high contrast black and white photograph, the only color we see is what’s on our bodies and what’s on the ship. As I took my turn on the helm this morning, Allison Cook from Story Of Stuff popped up to get some fresh air and push back the nausea. I could see the seasickness countenanced in her expression–I expected her to say something about how she was feeling as she gazed at the angry sea, but all she uttered was, “It’s so beautiful.” Indeed it is Allison.

Stay tuned for more reports from the crew. Up next is a blog from Tiffany and Cbox. I’ll keep filling in the gaps–trust me, everyone wants to share their experience out here but the present conditions but the idea of looking at a computer screen makes them a bit squeamish. Big shout out to Erik Burbank and the Helly Hansen team for the foul weather gear provided to the 5 Gyres team. It’s phenomenal–a true game changer.

Please share our updates with your friends and families, and please consider helping the expedition funding by donating to our Klean Kanten Indiegogo matching campaign!

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