Aboard Clearwater #3: Camping, Seining, Trawling, and Getting Wet

The third and last day of our Clearwater voyage began with a lovely, early-morning rain on Verplanck Point on the shores of the Hudson River . . . as well as a soaking wet tent. I was awakened roughly at 6:50 and everyone was on board for breakfast by 7:30. Deceived by the fickle coastal weather, I failed to prepare myself with a raincoat and was shivering in the cold wind by the time the rain stopped.

Clearwater’s plastics trawl deployed in the Hudson River.  Photo by Paula Butler

Clearwater’s plastics trawl deployed in the Hudson River. Photo by Paula Butler

Photo by Paula Butler

Photo by Paula Butler

After Breakfast, we went for some more seining. Everyone got really excited when one of the Cearwater crew member pointed out that there was a sturgeon happily splashing water about 20 feet off shore. However, the area that we were seining at was extremely rocky and the beach seine was constantly twisted. After almost an hour of struggling with it we all seemed to be satisfied with the one blue crab  we found under the weeds and mud.

Professor Tom Langen explained how to understand the environment around a specific location by analyzing the surrounding elements. In this specific case, Professor Langen pointed out that the large amount of abandoned and wrecked boats in the marina nearby had become a source of pollution; oil from these ships may well have leaked into the soil and sediments and caused contamination.

Preparing to beach seine at Verplanck Point.  Photo by Paula Butler

Preparing to beach seine at Verplanck Point. Photo by Paula Butler

After the seining, we went back to Clearwater and performed all sorts of sailor work with the crew members. We did not hoist the sail as usual. Instead we used the engine in order to move at a constant speed and direction; this would be helpful for our measurement of the water quality, since one of the criteria of the River involved the measuring of the plastic in the water. We used the specialized plastics trawl, pictured above, to conduct the sampling. Micro-bits of plastic flow into a cup at the end of the device. Afterwards, we put the sample water under a microscope and analyzed it.

During our time aboard, we also learnt about some traditional ways of measuringturbidityPH value, and dissolved oxygen of the water. Before lunch, Professor John Cronin talked about the history of American environmental movement as well as his life as the Hudson Riverkeeper (which was literally one of the coolest thing that I’ve ever heard of…) He also pointed out some of the flaws that exists in the Clean Water Act of 1972, and emphasized the importance of technological innovation as well as legislative innovation. In order to support his argument, he raised the examples of the Storm King case and the Indian point nuclear plant. In conclusion, he enthusiastically pronounced that we RiverU students are the future of the environmental movement, which somehow, stressed me out a little bit…

We ended the whole day by climbing up the Clearwater mast and taking a group photo together with the crew.