September 4, 2009--
Tangled with plastic, rope, and various aquatic animals, a "ghost net" drifts in August 2009 in the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, a loose, free-floating "dump" twice the size of Texas
SEAPLEX (the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition)
recently became the first dedicated research trip to study the science of the remote plastic vortex in the ocean
. (See "Giant Ocean-Trash Vortex Attracts Explorers."
While large pieces are common, the garbage patch is not an island of plastic, the team found on their 19-day expedition in August. Much of the debris is in the form of countless thumbnail-size scraps.
"I think the plastic-confetti metaphor is probably closest to the reality," said expedition member Jesse Powell, a doctoral student in biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.
Photograph courtesy Scripps Institution of Oceanography