Researchers head to Pacific Trash Vortex

May 27, 2009 7:09:01 PM PDT
A crew of sailors is preparing for an unusual voyage to find one of the world's largest piles of floating garbage.

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It will be an ocean voyage to the least glamorous of destinations - a floating garbage dump in the middle of the Pacific.

"I had no idea what a problem it was, and that's when I decided it was important to do something," Project Kaisei member Mary Crowley said.

Crowley has been around the seas all her life. Now she and a group called the Ocean Voyages Institute are transforming a training ship into a tool that might help save it.

The vortex of trash to which they will sail is one of 11 around the world. They will be looking for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex. Located in the mid-Pacific, it is where wind and currents converge and bring all the stuff they carry.

"When the currents and winds are working together it will line up and look like a freeway of trash; strewn about it will be everything you could possibly imagine that can float." Jim Dufour of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego said.

They intend to bring some of the garbage back to analyze it. Dufour plans to use radio transmitters to track the flow of the vortex, which contains 300 million tons of trash and is half the size of Texas.

"There are some parts of it that has small particles of plastic brokendown that's soupy," Crowley said.

The garbage comes from everywhere on the planet. It is the stuff people leave on trails, that washes into streams, that finds its way out to sea. Garbage that kills wildlife weakens the food chain and never breaks down.

There is some trash dumped today that will still be floating around there 50 years from now," Dufour said.

The crew of the Kaisei leaves in July; when they return, they hope to have evidence that might bring about a solution.

LINK: Project Kaisei - Capturing the Plastic Vortex

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