Friday, 24 April 2009

Return to the Lost Continent

I see from PopUrls that the Great Pacific Garbage patch is now twice the size of France.

The Telegraph article covers the usual ground about the sailing chap who heading home decided to drive his boat across the North Pacific Gyre, and how its all the fault of modern society using plastic.

Some interesting facts in the article from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Floating beneath the surface of the water, to a depth of 10 metres, was a multitude of small plastic flecks and particles, in many colours, swirling like snowflakes or fish food. An awful thought occurred to Moore and he started measuring the weight of plastic in the water compared to that of plankton. Plastic won, and it wasn't even close. 'We found six times more plastic than plankton, and this was just colossal,' he says. 'No one had any idea this was happening, or what it might mean for marine ecosystems, or even where all this stuff was coming from.'

So ended Moore's retirement. He turned his small volunteer environmental monitoring group into the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, enlisted scientists, launched public awareness campaigns and devoted all his considerable energies to exploring what would become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and studying the broader problem of marine plastic pollution, which is accumulating in all the world's oceans.

The world's navies and commercial shipping fleets make a significant contribution, he discovered, throwing some 639,000 plastic containers overboard every day, along with their other litter. But after a few more years of sampling ocean water in the gyre and near the mouths of Los Angeles streams, and comparing notes with scientists in Japan and Britain, Moore concluded that 80 per cent of marine plastic was initially discarded on land, and the United Nations Environmental Programme agrees.

And then also in the Telegraph's article there's a bit of coverage of David de Rothschild's Plastiki, plastic boat project which the Guardian covered last week.
In a few weeks, the heir to one of the world's greatest fortunes, David de Rothschild, will set sail across the Pacific - in a boat, the Plastiki, made from plastic bottles and recycled waste. The aim of this extraordinary venture is simple: to focus attention on one of the world's strangest and most unpleasant environmental phenomena: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a rubbish-covered region of ocean, several hundred miles in diameter.

"I want the Plastiki to make a statement that it's our lack of reuse, uses and disposal that it is at fault, not the material itself," he said.

The eco-warrior has also designed his mission so that it copies key features of the voyage of the Kon-Tiki in which Thor Heyerdahl - a hero of de Rothschild - sailed across the Pacific to show how ancient South American Indians could have colonised Polynesia. As a result, de Rothschild originally set his launch date for 28 April - exactly 62 years to the day when Heyerdahl set out on his epic journey across the Pacific. However, teething problems with Plastiki recently forced him to postpone departure until later this summer.

Nevertheless, de Rothschild insists his craft will sail in the next few weeks and could one day revolutionise the use of recycled plastics in general and the design of boats in particular. Much will depend on how his craft behaves once the Plastiki expedition is under way, he admitted to the New Yorker recently. His craft should perform well, but could break up, he said.

Not really my cup of tea really, I'm not into the PR side of things, I just want a floating, self-sufficient island, like what Richie Sowa's Spiral Island built in Mexico

I'd heard of this floating island thing before when researching the Lost Continent of Mu, but this Ecoble article is neat cos its got a diagram of how the plastic bottles he uses are assembled.

I reckon if there's bottles floating in the North Pacific Gyre, then an island built there could accumulate it's own mass. According to the wikipedia page for Spiral Island
the roots of the mangroves growing on it, help hold it all together, so once you reach some large mass, it'll have its own self-propagating structural integrity.

Also, I wandered along to the Reprap website earlier today. A Reprap machine is like a cheap 3D printer that prints out solid parts from plastic and can self-replicate about 60% of its own parts. If you get one of these, solar powered, sitting on an island, with a stream of nurdles drifting to it on the currents, you could get it to churn out its own plastic bottles.

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