It’s a whale! It’s a fish! It’s…the North Pacific Trash Gyre!

[EDIT: If you're looking for a photo of the North Pacific Trash Gyre, go here.]

The ocean is really, really big. This may be obvious, but it gets brought home especially hard if, say, one happens to be a marine biologist who kinda accidentally misplaces one’s study site and has to spend three hours swimming around underwater looking for it. Hypothetically, of course.

The Pacific is not big enough, however, to hide all the plastic crap that comes pouring off North American and Asia. Many of the broken flipflops, lost plastic bags, abandoned waterbottles, and so forth collect in the North Pacific Gyre, which is essentially a big slow gentle whirlpool. But instead of sucking the trash down, it just collects at the center, forming a floating trash heap the size of Texas.

Capt. Charles Moore accidentally sailed through the gyre a few years ago and was so shocked by vast vistas of trash that he formed the nonprofit Algalita Marine Research Foundation, based in LA. They’ve got a research cruise sailing through the gyre right now, trawling and categorizing trash – read more on their blog. Here’s a great photo of a barnacle-encrusted life jacket that they found floating by.

Read more about the North Pacific Trash Gyre:

- “Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas”, part of the excellent & incredibly depressing LA Times series Altered Oceans.
– Jean-Michel Cousteau visited our brand-new national monument, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Metafilter thread with lots more links

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31 Responses to It’s a whale! It’s a fish! It’s…the North Pacific Trash Gyre!

  1. Wow – my post on the North Pacific Trash Gyre has gotten a huge number of hits today. Hey, searchers, tell me what you want to know – I’ll do my best to answer any questions or direct you to useful resources.

  2. [...] Pacific Trash Gyre gone wild! Wow – my post on the North Pacific Trash Gyre has gotten a huge number of hits today. Is there breaking news of some kind that I totally missed? [...]

  3. [...] Pacific Trash Gyre A lot of folks over on Digg were very skeptical of the existence of the North Pacific Trash Gyre. They want to know: why are there no photos of floating heaps of trash? Why can’t you see the [...]

  4. Sam says:

    Ack! Suddenly every link on your blog goes to “It’s a whale! It’s a fish! It’s…the North Pacific Trash Gyre!” I know trash gyres are important, but jeez!

  5. Kevin Zelnio says:

    A dumpster diver’s paradise! I bet there are two matching pairs of tevas in there somewhere!

  6. dede says:

    people pick up your shit. is that too much to ask. just pick up after yourselfse. GEEZ

  7. [...] well-insulated from the actual effects. Most of us don’t live by a feedlot or a landfill, and trash collecting in massive whirlpools in the middle of the ocean are…in the middle of the ocean. That’s one reason why this light switch cover featuring [...]

  8. [...] Rant ended, I saw this article over at The Oyster’s Garter about the supposed “North Pacific Trash Gyre,” which is what it sounds like: a huge floating pile of Trash in the Pacific. Because our earth is some 75% water, it’s not a big deal that you don’t particularly notice this “trash gyre,” an effing whirpool of muck south of Cali, but it damn sure is a big deal that it’s there. And it’s the size of Texas. The Pacific is not big enough, however, to hide all the plastic crap that comes pouring off North American and Asia. Many of the broken flipflops, lost plastic bags, abandoned waterbottles, and so forth collect in the North Pacific Gyre, which is essentially a big slow gentle whirlpool. But instead of sucking the trash down, it just collects at the center, forming a floating trash heap the size of Texas. LINK [...]

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  15. [...] the worlds oceans is unbelievable. This is about the rubbish, mainly plastic, in the North Pacific. It’s a whale! It’s a fish! It’s…the North Pacific Trash Gyre! | The Oyster's… Plastic bags are one of the major causes of death in the world's largest turtle, the Leatherback. [...]

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