Image via maeschultz
If you've spent much time reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you might have started wondering why we aren't out there cleaning it up. Well, barely scratch the surface of that thought and you'll see why. It's a massive effort, and would require some massive carbon emissions from fossil fuel-powered boats and equipment to accomplish it. Plus, it's expensive as all get out. But these issues are being waved aside by scientists who are launching an expedition to see just how possible it is to clean up the floating dump. Charles Moore, one of our favorite ocean advocates and discoverer of the patch, though, says it's a mission impossible.
From the Times:
Scientists and conservationists on the expedition will begin attempts to retrieve and recycle a monument to throwaway living in the middle of the North Pacific.
"Trying to clean up the Pacific gyre would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went," [says Moore].
In June the 151ft brigantine Kaisei (Japanese for Planet Ocean) will unfurl its sails in San Francisco to try to prove Mr Moore wrong. Project Kaisei's flagship will be joined by a decommissioned fishing trawler armed with specialised nets.
The expedition is supported by Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Brita, which will use unmanned aircraft and robotic surface explorers to explore exactly how big and how deep the vortex is, as well as collect as much as 40 tons of junk as a test for the possibility of cleaning up and recycling the spiraling soup of death into fuel for the vessels.
Project Kaisei's Mission:
Project Kaisei consists of a team of innovators, ocean lovers, sailors, scientists, sports enthusiasts and environmentalists who have come together with a common purpose. To study how to capture plastic waste in the ocean and how to capture, detoxify and recycle it into diesel fuel. This first research Mission, scheduled for the summer of 2009, will be critical to understanding the logistics that will be needed to make a successful clean-up operation possible as some of the technology required for such a feat has never been utilised under oceanic conditions.
The patch is already getting great attention, complete with celebs like David de Rothschild making a trek out to it and highly publicized Earthrace's record-setting trip being slowed down by it. This effort will bring even more needed attention.
If the mission is counted as successful, we'll see more clean-up efforts with larger fleets in 2010. We'll be cheering on the scientists, though we'll also be keeping one foot in reality and acknowledge that this is a really, really big undertaking.
Via the Times Online
More on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Charles Moore and Dirty Talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Earthrace Eco-speedboat Record Attempt Slowed by North Pacific Garbage
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
Help Stop the Tidal Wave of Trash