Researchers discover astonishing consequence of 2018 ship sinking

When French oceanographer Pierre-Paul-Jacques Canular’s team looked over recent pH data from his 10-year-old time-series site close to Nice, France, they first thought that their instruments had failed. But after checking all possible sources of error, they realized that the data were indeed correct. Instead of the expected slight decrease in pH due to ocean acidification, as the site had been able to confirm for several years back, the pH had been going up during the last few months. Professor Canular said that the perplexing findings could be the unexpected consequence of 3000 tons of basic soap dissolving into the water not far from his time-series site.

The cargo ship Poisson d’Avril, which sank on 1 April last year about 50 kilometres from Nice, was carrying 365 containers of bulk soap bars which were being transported for packaging in Tunisia. The soap is thought to have fallen out of the containers in the violent shock when the ship hit the seafloor. Even if the soap proved effective to elevate the local pH at this particular site, Professor Canular told journalists that any attempts at adding soap to seawater on a larger scale to counter ocean acidification would be a fool’s errand and that the only practical solution to limit ocean acidification is to cut CO2 emissions.

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