EcoDaredevil TV


Sunday, June 1, 2008

JUNK launches across Pacific today!

As marine debris is one of our main concerns as ocean advocates, I thought everyone would be interested in this creative "EcoDaredevil" project by some of our friends and colleagues...

Crossing the Pacific on Junk raft

A guest post from Anna Cummins (photo at right), education advisor of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

The average Emerald City reader has likely heard of the infamous "Pacific Garbage Patch," that mythical swath of debris in the Pacific, the size of Texas. Or was it two Texases or wait, twice the size of the moon?

Having recently returned from a month-long research trip through this massive marine landfill, I'll clear up a few misconceptions:

• The garbage does indeed exist. HOWEVER it is not a "patch" of garbage, nor a trash island. It's more like a huge bowl of dilute plastic soup, from California to Japan.

• We can't clean it up, net it away, or sieve it out. It's an area twice the size of the United States, and the debris is too spread out. Imagine a handful of plastic cornflakes sprinkled over a football field. Now imagine 9 million football fields in the Pacific Ocean.

12 years ago, Captain Charles Moore accidentally "discovered" the plastic debris debacle in the North Pacific while sailing an infrequently traveled route from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Stunned by the endless river of plastic junk he found -– toothbrushes, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments –- Moore decided to return with research tools and scientific sampling methods, to better understand what he saw.

In 1999, Moore et al. published the groundbreaking study, 4,200 miles across the Pacific, collecting surface samples the entire way.

What we found this year: the problem has gotten much, much worse. Though our samples are still being processed, Captain Moore guesstimates a fivefold increase in 10 years, bumping plastic to plankton ratios up to 30:1.
And still, we tear through plastic bags and bottles like they're going out of style...

Actually, we'd love to see disposable plastics go out of style. So to bring public attention to the junk in our ocean, we're sailing from Long Beach to Hawaii -- on Junk.

For the last few months, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal and myself have been creating Junk -– a raft made of 15,000 plastic bottles, an old Cessna 310 airplane, and other assorted junk, to sail from Long Beach to Hawaii.

Marcus and Joel will set sail on June 1 from the Long Beach Aquarium, carrying hundreds of individual messages about plastic debris, to be delivered to D.C. legislators next winter. I'll be charting their daily progress from land, keeping up the blog, and praying for gentle, steady winds.

Come on board! To support our mission, write your message in a bottle here. And to see history in the making -- the first ever plastic bottle boat cross the Pacific -- come on down for the June 1 launch party, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Long Beach Aquarium.

Follow the journey at the JUNK blog. And for information, e-mail me at

Top photo by Joel Paschal; bottom photo by Peter Bennett