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Eric Shackle Writes: The Five Gyres Expidition

Eric Shackle tells of an expidition to take part in the most extensive study up to this date of ociean plastic pollution.

An expedition called The Five Gyres is about to leave Valdivia, Chile, in a ship called the Sea Dragon, to sail the South Pacific in search of plastic pollution.

(A gyre in oceanography is any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements).

Sea Dragon is a 72ft (22m), 90,000lb displacement steel hulled sailing vessel built in the UK in 2000.

Its departure from Valdivia was delayed in case a tsunami from last week's disastrous earthquake in Japan might reach the coast of Chile.

"Although one could argue every single thing on the planet is related, ocean plastic pollution seems to have little to do with the recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake and trunami that hit Japam last week," says Paula Alvarado, a Buenos Aires journalist who is a passenger on the Sea Dragon.

"Yet, the subject has been strangely present in the days prior to our departure with the 5 Gyres project to take part in the most extensive study of ocean plastic pollution undertaken till now."

Alvarado says that in 1960, Valdivia was hit by a more powerful earthquake measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale, as against the recent 8.9 in Japan.

"The city was severely damaged by the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 — the most powerful earthquake ever recorded", she says.

"Debris and destroyed buildings from the earthquake can still be found in the suburban areas — land subsidence and sediments make navigation of the local rivers complex, with some ruined buildings still adjoining the water."

Why are they so concerned about pollution of the oceans?

The short-term convenience of using and throwing away plastic products carries a very inconvenient long-term truth.

These plastic water bottles, cups, utensils, electronics, toys, and gadgets we dispose of daily are rarely recycled in a closed loop.We currently recover only 5% of the plastics we produce.

What happens to the rest of it? Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods, and much of it remains “unaccounted for”, lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea.

In this video, Marcus Eriksen is not really fishing. He is catching plastic in the Atlantic Ocean. Eriksen and his wife, Anna Cummins,want to publicise the growing buildup of plastic waste in our oceans and to study its effects.

For more about The Five Gyres expedition, visit:


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