Though it’s existed for decades, the swirling collection of debris particles and trash adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is attracting renewed attention from scientists and environmental experts with the return of a research vessel that has been collecting data from the gyre — a circular system of rotating ocean currents — for the past several months. Charles Moore, who is credited with discovering the gyre on a yachting race in the North Pacific, led a team of scientists on a two-month expedition to the heart of the Garbage Patch beginning in July, and what they saw shocked them.
“Floating plastic visible to the naked eye now persist for hundreds of miles,” Charles Moore said via telephone on his way back from the gyre. “I've been monitoring the patch for 15 years and I've never seen it like this.” Video shot by the crew aboard the ship show clumps of buoys, nets and plastic debris adrift in the ocean. In one instance, so much debris had accumulated in one particular area that Moore was able to stand atop the floating mound of trash. “This massive accumulation of trash can’t be good for the environment and we’re going to do more in-depth scientific study on how it’s affecting the ecosystem out here,” Moore said.
— Aarne Heikkila
First published August 15 2014, 1:23 PM