â€œIf you could fast-forward 10,000 years and do an archaeological digâ€¦youâ€™d find a little line of plastic. What happened to those people? Well, they ate their own plastic and disrupted their genetic structure and werenâ€™t able to reproduce. They didnâ€™t last very long because they killed themselves.” – Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Ph.D., an expert on marine debris.
It sounds amusing, but it’s a very serious subject. This article from Best Life magazine tells us about the gyres, enormous areas of ocean that have collected huge amounts of garbage caught in currents that keep them there and even more compellingly, it tells us about how these toxic plastics get into the food chain and our systems.
Our oceans are turning into plastic…are we?
By Susan Casey, Photographs by Gregg Segal May 11, 2007
A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain. Scientists say these toxins are causing obesity, infertility…and worse.
Fate can take strange forms, and so perhaps it does not seem unusual that Captain Charles Moore found his lifeâ€™s purpose in a nightmare. Unfortunately, he was awake at the time, and 800 miles north of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
It happened on August 3, 1997, a lovely day, at least in the beginning: Sunny. Little wind. Water the color of sapphires. Moore and the crew of Alguita, his 50-foot aluminum-hulled catamaran, sliced through the sea.
Returning to Southern California from Hawaii after a sailing race, Moore had altered Alguitaâ€™s course, veering slightly north. He had the time and the curiosity to try a new route, one that would lead the vessel through the eastern corner of a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical gyre. This was an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoided. For one thing, it was becalmed. â€œThe doldrums,â€ sailors called it, and they steered clear. So did the oceanâ€™s top predators: the tuna, sharks, and other large fish that required livelier waters, flush with prey. The gyre was more like a desertâ€”a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingered above it.
It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Moore could not believe his eyes. Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill.
How did all the plastic end up here? How did this trash tsunami begin? What did it mean?