As debris from the Japanese tsunami begins to wash up on shores along the western United States, scientists warn that there are far greater concerns lurking about a thousand miles off the coast of California. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a terrifying collection of gunk and junk that’s swirling around the Pacific Ocean for several decades, is getting bigger. According to a recent study, the impossibly horrifying trash island has grown 100-fold over the past 40 years, thanks to the increasing amount of plastic dumped into the oceans.
“I’m more concerned about our constant input of trash than I am about these one-time disasters,” lead author Miriam Goldstein explained to the Los Angeles Times. “We can’t prevent terrible events like the tsunami, but dumping plastic into the ocean is something we can control and don’t do very well.”
Scientists are also concerned about the extremely large amount of debris from the 2011 tsunami that will soon call the garbage patch home. An estimated two million tons of construction material, refrigerators, TVs, fishing boats, and a vast array of other items are expected to make their way towards coastal towns, thought some of these items will certainly get caught in the putrid island’s clutches along the way. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently stated that they expect debris to reach Oregon, Washington state, Alaska, and Canada between March 2014 and March 2015.
Just recently, a large wooden deck, which is thought to have originated in northern Japan, washed up on the shores of Oregon. “What we have is a really large, well-built dock that survived a cross-ocean voyage,” a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation explained. “It’s 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and seven feet tall, covered with reinforced concrete. We’re used to debris and trash that you can pick up and throw in a trash bag, and the occasional vessel that runs aground. Something like this, this large, this heavy, requires a little more careful handling.”
According to Wikipedia, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (aka Pacific Trash Vortex) is characterized by its “characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.” Although the island’s existence was predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Charles J. Moore is credited with first seeing the patch during a sailing race in 1997.