A Seventh Continent Called Pacific Trash Vortex

There is an island where no one wants to live. Yet it is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not too far from beautiful Hawaii. And it’s really pure and wild, an atoll with bright colors that, given its geographical location, is just as good as Bora Bora or the Cook Islands.  So why so much revulsion?

Imagine a huge pile of plastic waste of all kinds that had been accumulating since the fifties, undisturbed, in the sea, to the point where It has become a continent made of trash. A large island that is not there because it is not marked on the maps. It is not even visible from satellites, as it is located just below the sea surface, 10 meters deep.

Pacific Trash Vortex, also known as a large patch of garbage in the Pacific, however, does exist. It was discovered in the late ’80s by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was formed due to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slow ocean current that moves in a clockwise spiral, produced by a system of currents at high pressure. This current collects the garbage and gathers it into two major groups: one at about 500 nautical miles off the coast of California, and one off of the Japanese coast.

It must be said that this big blob silently disintegrates into fragments and smaller pieces. These tiny bits are the result of a photodegradation, as crazy as it is harmful. Although  they are not visible, they are present and mix with the marine plankton that fish and jellyfish eat. This leads to poison that entering the food chain. A large piece of garbage, in fact. The oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, which deals with the problem of the dispersion of plastic in the seas, compares this pile of junk to a living organism: “It wriggles like a big animal without a leash. When this “beast” is close to the mainland, as happened in Hawaii, the consequences are very serious. The mass of waste regurgitates pieces and the beaches are covered with a carpet of plastic. ”

Scientists are very concerned about the new role of artificial material in their habitat, “it is something that should not be in the sea and that is changing this small aspect of the ecology of the oceans,” says the researcher Miriam Goldstein. And the damage may soon sweep across the gentle oceanic food chain.

Goldstein led a group of researchers off the coast of California have document the effects of trash on marine life. For three weeks, they collected marine specimen and water samples at different depths, distributing and using mesh nets to catch the particles of microplastic, a deadly cocktail for fish, seabirds and even sperm whales. The team found that nearly 10% of the fish examined had ingested plastic. And this is just one of the many problems caused by the 13,000 pieces of plastic that are located in that every square mile of ocean.

Erika Sciarra.


9 thoughts on “A Seventh Continent Called Pacific Trash Vortex

  1. This is scary. I don’t think we can find a any immediate solution to such a problem ; this is just a glimpse of the monster of plastic and non-degradable trash that is now everywhere.

  2. […] Los óceanos, que cubren un 70% de la superficie del planeta, se han convertido en un enorme estercolero. Una estimación de finales de 2014 asegura que hay, por lo menos, el equivalente a 269 000 toneladas de contaminación en las aguas. Con el paso del tiempo, toda esta basura ha formado lo que los científicos califican de “séptimo continente de plástico“. […]

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