Thursday, July 7, 2011

Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

In the north Pacific Ocean, the ocean currents circulate in what is known as the Pacific Gyre.   In the past few years there have been reports of discarded plastics and debris circulating in this gyre is such mass that it has created "another continent".  At least that's one description I came across.  A more common description that is out there, and one that was also reported by Oprah (and by the way, I am not a fan of Oprah), that this garbage mass is the size of Texas and is 90 feet deep.  Certainly if you google the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, you'll easily find numerous web pages with these kinds of descriptions.   Most are on environmental web pages, some of which are designed to shock you. 

Then you'll also find other descriptions by scientific researchers who don't deny the gathering of plastic, but they counter the claims of the 8th continent being formed by garbage.   They certainly have reported the evidence of garbage and bits of plastic floating in the ocean currents and in what appears to be alarming amounts.  But it hasn't formed an island the size of Texas.  

You'll find photos on a few web pages that seem to support the claim of this floating Island.  My question is, where are these photos taken.  You'll see photos of animals caught up in plastic netting and a turtle that had a plastic ring around when it was young and the story of how it grew into a deformed adult.  Oprah shows that one.  So did these animals really get caught up in this whirlpool of floating garbage, or did they get it from along the shore lines of the Pacific.  I think that there are exaggerated claims to shock and make a point.   Some of this might be true, some of it isn't.  

You can go onto google and You Tube and read up on this story yourself and look at the videos.  Once you get on line, you'll find more and more and more stories and you tube videos.    Try to look at all sides of this story and draw your own conclusions.   (Links below)

But, here's what I believe.  Based on what I've read and seen in a few videos, I believe there is an issue with floating debris and plastic in the Pacific Ocean.  It likely does get caught up in this gyre.  If there is that much floating plastic in the Pacific, surely there is a similar problem in our other oceans.   I DON"T believe in the garbage island the size of Texas or the formation of the 8th continent.  The videos I looked at made by folks who were there certainly DON'T show any island or continent.  And by the way, those folks who describe it as a continent should read up on plate tectonics and find out what a continent actually is before using that description.   The videos DO show floating debris and plastics, and that should be a great concern to us.  It truly is an example of the impact we humans are having on this planet.

Here is a photo that I came across on a few web pages.  This shows a chap in a canoe paddling through floating garbage.  So where is the picture actually taken?  I could not find the original source or photographer name.  Is it taken out in the middle of the Pacific on this "garbage island".  Often the text that goes with this photo suggests that.  But, would someone really be out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a canoe?  Or was this picture taken somewhere close to shore? Perhaps at some location where garbage is dumped over the shore into the ocean?  Hey, that still happens in some parts of the world.    I won't deny the photograph is real.  It also is quite a graphic display of a horrendous and shameful waste disposal practice.  I would just like to know the true location where this photo was taken. 

I will say with certainty what I know.   I don't know what the real truth is on this topic.  The only way I will be able to know with certainty of this floating garbage story, is that I will have to get in a boat and go look for myself.


Anonymous said...

That last image is copyright JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images

Odds, Morals and Skepicism said...

I don't think anyone serious describes the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as a 8 Continent, at least in all the articles I read on it this reference wasn't made, but it does exist and it is bigger than the state of Texas...well depending on how you define it.

It's not as your picture of the guy in the canoe shows, a collected mass in the traditional sense of a garbage dump, it's instead a collection of higher than average amounts of floating plastic.

You don't need to go above Hawaii to find out, you just need better sources than Oprah.

I wrote about it some on my blog