Amphibious Trilogies

Manta Ray Moving Plastics

Day 4 on the Arctic Floating University
Tuesday 25 June 2019

The pristine waters of the Arctic Ocean are under threat by microplastic particles. Microplastic particles can be up to a grain of rice in size. Covering long distances, they silently drift and accumulate along with ocean currents.

Today I joined students and supervisor Anna Vesman ¹ in an attempt to capture sea-borne microplastic particles along the Kola Meridian transect  (Barents Sea). They came with a home grown device, affectionately called MANTA. This namesake is fitting. Manta rays are filtering feeders. With mouths open wide while swimming just below the surface of the sea, they gather great volumes of zooplankton.

The act:

Before launching MANTA overboard, we attached my GoPro camera inside the MANTA’s mouth. Once in the water, MANTA trawls alongside Prof. Molchanov for about 25 minutes, diving, bopping, twisting and bumping, riding on the turbulence of wind, waves and the velocity of the research vessel.

The catch:

The scientists collected some few microplastic particles. They seemed to be a little disappointed, hoping to contribute to the knowledge of the vast volume of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean. Never mind. Cheery up. The Ocean is wide, the currents flow and the wind blows too. Next time, perhaps, we’ll draw a bigger catch.

On another hand, the blind video footage came out surprisingly strong. Like something very ancient (says Andrew postnatally), like vibrant matter, like light diffraction. Like hissy, like jerky, like in perpetual motion disrupted. Something like the ever changing states of amphibiousness.

Not only a feat of documentation, this blind, one-shot 30 min video can be seen as an enactment of an extending choreography. Likewise, the rawness of the video points to a potential art work, in and of itself. As such, we call the recording as SWISH video art.

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¹ Anna V. Vesman is a scientist at Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre, St. Petersburg. She also works as an engineer at the Arctic and Antarctic research institute, Atmosphere-sea ice-ocean interaction department. Her scientific interests are polar oceanology, climate change and hydrochemistry. In 2018 she completed her PhD with the thesis topic Main features of global warming manifestation in the Fram Strait and waters surrounding Spitsbergen in XX-XXI centuries.

This is her fourth time to be on the Floating Arctic University. This year she leads lectures on two interlocking topics: Arctic Ocean and the Barents, Sea Iceand Marine Litter, as well as being an organiser of the expedition and supervisor for students.


Click & Drag: Rotate the view.
Right Click & Drag: Pan the view.