Friday, July 31, 2009

Oscar's Holiday Garbage Island

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch -

Unknown to many, hiding in north pacific ocean and estimated to be up to twice the size of Texas, is a vast gyre ("any manner of particularly large-scale wind, swirling vortex and ocean currents." - wikipedia ) of marine litter. Containing exceptionally high levels of suspended plastic as well as other debris, though not visible through satellite technology (so not on google earth, I tried) the polluted patch of ocean is one of 5 major collecting points.

Forming gradually over time from marine pollution (estimated to be 80% from inland sources and 20% from ships - Capt. Charles Moore) and drawn into a fairly still area of ocean by the rotational pattern created by the major oceanic gyres, the garbage is wind driven into the inner parts of the area, trapping it.

“The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.” - Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Some stats about the patch
- The size of the affected region is unknown, but estimates range from 700,000 km² to more than 15 million km², (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean). The area may contain over 100 million tons of debris. - Charles Moore
- The Eastern Garbage Patch has one of the highest levels of plastic particulate suspended in the upper water column.
- Unlike debris which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level.


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