The Atlantic Garbage Patch

We’re less than a hundred miles from the predicted accumulation zone, the center of the Sargasso Sea. Yesterday we came across our first real glimpse of what we’ve seen in the North Pacific Gyre – the infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”- only here in the North Atlantic.

 

The Atlantic Garbage Patch

Posted on February 03, 2010 in Blog

 

We’re less than a hundred miles from the predicted accumulation zone, the center of the Sargasso Sea. Yesterday we came across our first real glimpse of what we’ve seen in the North Pacific Gyre – the infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”- only here in the North Atlantic.

We had just pulled in our first trawl after 48 hours of laying low due to heavy winds. We can’t sample when storm winds pummel the oceans surface – suspended plastic is so close to the buoyancy of water that the slightest disturbance nudges it below the reach of our trawl. Forced to do nothing for 2 days but tend to boat duties, read, and entertain one another, we were all starting to climb the walls. And then we spotted the windrow, flanked by a group of dolphins dancing in our wake.

 

The Atlantic Garbage Patch

 

Stretching far across the horizon was a long chain of floating Sargassum mats, clumped together like huge wicker doormats. Embedded in each patch was a disturbing mosaic of plastic junk. “This looks more like the Pacific gyre”, commented Joel Paschal, who has also been on several long research voyages with Captain Moore. We grabbed our nets and began fishing furiously, amassing a pile of bottlecaps, shotgun shells, crates, toothbrushes, a boxer’s mouthpiece, and myriad unidentifiable chunks floated by, gently pulsating with the ocean’s currents. 

 

The Atlantic Garbage Patch

 

There is no doubt in our minds that the Pacific plastic plague is not an isolated phenomenon, but an International problem. We’ve seen plastic trash covering beaches in Bermuda, carried from the mainland by the Gulf Stream. We’ve seen broken down fragments in our trawls after sieving the ocean’s surface. We’ve now seen mini “islands” of plastic trash entangled in Sargassum. And yesterday afternoon, we saw the strangest thing yet, involving a large trigger fish and a plastic bottle. But that’s a story for tomorrow…..

5 Gyres



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