The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. It is also known as the Pacific trash vortex and spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is actually comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California.
The amount of debris in the GPGP accumulates because much of it is not biodegradable. Many plastics, for instance, do not wear down; they simply break into tinier and tinier pieces. No one knows how much debris makes up the GPGP. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is too large for scientists to trawl. In addition, not all trash floats on the surface. Denser debris can sink centimeters or even several meters beneath the surface, making the vortex’s area nearly impossible to measure.
For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are almost entirely made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics can’t always be seen by the naked eye. Even satellite imagery doesn’t show a giant patch of garbage. The microplastics of the GPGP can simply make the water look like a cloudy soup which, sometimes, is intermixed with larger items, such as fishing gear.
The seafloor beneath the GPGP may also be an underwater trash heap. Oceanographers and ecologists recently discovered that about 70% of marine debris actually sinks to the bottom of the ocean. While oceanographers and climatologists predicted the existence of the GPGP back in the ‘60, it was a racing boat captain by the name of Charles Moore who actually discovered the trash vortex in the mid ‘70.
Because the GPGP is so far from any country’s coastline, no nation will take responsibility or provide the funding to clean it up. Charles Moore says cleaning up the garbage patch would “bankrupt any country” that will try it. Many individuals and international organizations, however, are dedicated to research and develop innovative solutions to clean up the GPGP.
This morning what I saw in the water made me speechless.
Small fragments of plastic were scattered everywhere as far as I could see. They can tell you about it a hundred times, but you really can't believe it until you see it with your own eyes.
However, I row my boat with my hands and if, at the end of my day, I have sore hands this means ONE thing. No matter how far I have travelled I gave it all. I doubt there is another way to measure the effort.
One ocean, un solo oceano.
The clue I needed to prove that we are all immersed in the same big ocean revealed itself this morning when I picked up a plastic container that might once have contained some washing soap.
I have spent these days collecting plastic debris and I was very shocked to notice that micro-plastic accumulates in clusters. It is not evenly distributed as I had thought it was. Where some parts of the water look seemingly pure, others parts look as though someone has just smashed a plastic crate there. I also notice that the vast majority of the plastic is white and I'm curious to know why
It was also the day when I came across a big lump of fishing nets under which there was a whole ecosystem of marine animals. It was so compact that it would undoubtedly have supported my weight. It's easy to see how animals can get trapped in this tangle, and that's why there are so many initiatives to remove these traps. Ocean Voyages Institute of San Francisco One is one of these initiatives. Before I set off, they gave me two GPS trackers to attach to nets like this one. I am happy to have contributed to the fact that soon, employees of the Ocean Voyages Institute will locate the GPS tracker and remove the net.
I laughed when I read this statement because you can say the same thing about the trip I'm taking. You don't find what you want, but what you need. All right, beyond the foolishness, today was a record day for the amount of waste I saw out there. Everywhere I turned there was debris, of all sizes small, very small, large, some already populated by colonies of barnacles and crabs. I could only collect a small part of it because the boat does not allow me to make big manoeuvres and when I see something in the distance off my course, 9 times out of 10 I have to let it go.
Feeling like this, I didn't much care for what surrounded me during the day, but in one of the few moments when I gave myself some breathing space I noticed a big block of polystyrene.
I know that it will soon pass but at the moment, typing on the computer keyboard is quite painful.
So, for those who are reading this blog for the first time and wondering what I am doing here, I will give a little bit of an explanation. I am rowing across the most polluted area of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Here in the Pacific, between California and Hawaii.
I am here again, on a row boat in the middle of Pacific Ocean. This morning I had the pleasure of meeting up with French swimmer Ben Lecompte, who is swimming across the Pacific to raise awareness on ocean pollution. I know a rendezvous in the middle of the ocean sounds crazy but this is life!
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