Researchers Return with 'Garbage Patch' Samples

Scripps Institution researchers on three-week expedition to Great Pacific Garbage Patch

By Eric S. Page
|  Wednesday, Aug 26, 2009  |  Updated 11:25 AM PDT
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Images from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

SEAPLEX researchers Matt Durham (right) and Miriam Goldstein come across a large ghost net with tangled rope, net, plastic, and biological organisms while at sea in the North Pacific Gyre.

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Scientists from UCSD have returned from their trip to the Northern Pacific and have brought back tales, pictures and more than 100 samples from a blob of degraded plastic that is reportedly the size of Texas or bigger.

The researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography returned Friday after their mission to the North Pacific Ocean Gyre -- a large spinning area of water 1,000 miles off California that took five days to reach -- and what has been dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

"So there are all these cool organisms, and they're underneath this sort of layer of plastics just floating there," Miriam Goldstein, the chief scientist told voiceofsandiego.org.

The crew from San Diego aboard the New Horizon research vessel are trying to determine how much plastic has accumulated, how fast it is growing and the effect this "new and pressing environmental problem," as they describe it, will have on the ocean and its inhabitants.

Using dip and bongo nets, the Oozeki trawl -- a large enclosed net requiring several crew members to deploy -- and other equipment, the scientists conducted intensive sampling.

"I saw a lot of debris just going by and it reminded me a lot of driving along the freeway in California where there is tons of litter," doctoral student Darcy Taniguchi said in an interview with voiceofsandiego via satellite phone from the ship.

The concern is that tiny particles of plastic, found in almost every sample scientists say, could make its way to larger sea creatures, bringing with it a number of chemicals.

Read more about the team's return in the full article on voiceofsandiego.org.

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