CNES explorers Charles Moore and Patrick Deixonne. (Photo: P. Deixonne/CNES)
Expedition to the 'big island of litter' in the Pacific
Thursday, April 19, 2012, 03:50 (GMT + 9)
The French Explorers Society (SEF), sponsored by the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), will start an expedition to survey an island formed by millions of tonnes of plastic waste, located in the Pacific Ocean.
This place is known as the ‘Pacific great litter patch,’ the ‘big island of litter,’ the ‘big plastic soup’ or the ‘seventh continent.’
The purpose of this expedition, led by SEF explorer Patrick Deixonne, is to find out what the composition of the rubbish dump is and to warn the world about the finding, the newspaper ABC reported.
The scientists will set out on 2 May from San Diego (US) on board the schooner Elan and will travel 4,630 kilometres between California and Hawaii.
|The schooner Elan, the wooden boat of the expedition. (Photo: P. Deixonne/CNES)
On two other occasions -- in 2006 and 2009 -- US researchers conducted expeditions to this place, located about 1,000 kilometers from Hawaii.
The marine dumping site is estimated to take up between 1.7 million and 3.4 million square kilometers and to weigh about 3.5 million tonnes.
According to the data provided by CNES, this group of human wastes -- buoys, fishing nets, bottle caps, objects from sewers, plastic waste and millions of tiny plastic particles -- has 22,200 kilometres in circumference and about 3.4 million square kilometers.
The schooner is expected to be guided to the island of waste by NASA‘s Terra and Aqua satellites. Experts will measure the density of the waste and will take samples of water, plankton and materials.
The researchers noted that the waste plate is about 30 meters deep, so it affects the environment. And in the future, it could harm tourism and the merchant marine, especially if it continues growing.
The waste is grouped into a giant whirlpool caused by the force of the current in vortex in the North Pacific, which rotates clockwise.
This fact coupled with the winds flowing on the area contributes to the fact that plastic waste is not able to be scattered towards the coast.
In the world there are four other similar islands to this one. One of them is in the western North Atlantic, between the latitude of Cuba and the northern United States, more than 1,000 kilometres offshore, in the Sargasso Sea.
By Analia Murias