The Malaspina Circumnavigation Expedition, a scientific research voyage, took port in Honolulu’s Pier 10 last week, marking the halfway point for the project’s global journey. The expedition, named after Alejandro Malaspina, a famous Spanish scientist who traveled around the world in the 1700s, originated in Spain and will complete its voyage by mid-July.
Dave Karl, professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a member of the International Planning Committee for the expedition, says that the aim of the project is to gather critical information about the health of global waters from both a cumulative and a point-specific perspective.
“We’ve been looking at the local effects and changes in Hawaii for the past 25 years,” he says, “but nobody is going around the world connecting the dots. It’s much harder to collect information about all the oceans, especially the spaces in between.” Karl equates local, site-specific studies with snapshot photography, but says that the globally-inclusive Malespina Expedition is more like a motion picture. “Expeditions like this need to be done so that people know that what they’re seeing isn’t an anomaly, but that it’s happening everywhere,” Karl adds.
Although a large portion of the collected data will have to await analyzation until the research vessel, the Hesperides, returns to Spain, scientists have already learned a few things thus far. Some of the changes that they have seen are increases in the acidity, temperature and carbon dioxide levels of the oceans. The team of scientists has also discovered that some of the clearest waters are found in the oceans west of Hawaii.
This is not necessarily a good thing, warns Karl: “Clear water means that there is no plankton. Hopefully the rest of our data will help us understand why these waters are so clear and devoid of life.”