As the first-ever aerial shots of the area have revealed, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may present us with bigger issues than expected as new shots demonstrate a deeper density and higher mass volume than previously estimated.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of the Pacific Ocean situated between Hawaii and California whose currents have, over time, gathered much of the discarded objects and debris left to float on the water. As the collection of garbage, lost nets, and plastic matter continued to gather throughout the decades, it has come to reach an un-thought of dimension and density, and it is still growing.
The aerial surveillance of the area was initiated and funded by Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Foundation, an organization set up by a then teenager Boyan Slat’s dream of cleaning Earth’s waters. As his initial idea of a marine cleanup device started gathering support, Boylan managed to raise both millions in funding and a team of specialized engineers that are currently helping him advance towards his dream.
This week’s aerial expedition over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch set out to map and record the area’s real dimensions and composition. As the more than 2 hours long expedition revealed, the Patch is not only extensive in size, but also in depth. The team’s initial plan of categorizing the contained garbage went to the drain once the jet flew over the area and came to realize the extensive nature of the damage. As over 1000 large objects were counted to the collection, the vast majority of the garbage seems to be formed by plastic masses.
As plastic is not a biodegradable element, instead of being assimilated into nature it will usually break apart into smaller parts that will not only increase the garbage’s volume, but could also potentially harm local sea life as fish are bound to swallow them. In this way, plastic masses could make their way out of the ocean and into our lives as the natural food chain order will continue its circle and the smaller fish will be swallowed by the larger one.
There is a lot of work left to be done as this was the first of a larger number of aerial surveys of the area, useful nonetheless as the organization now has a clearer image of both the nature and the dimensions of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an image that will help them in their mission to clear the ocean’s waters.
Image Source: Wikimedia