How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans
In 2009, a U.N. joint commission estimated that 6.4 million metric tons of plastic waste currently pollutes the oceans. The U.N. also estimates that 5 million pieces of plastic enter the oceans each day from land. Captain Charles Moore thinks these figures, as shocking as they may seem, could be woefully optimistic.
In 1997, Moore, skipper of ORV alguita, a 50-foot Tasmania-built catamaran, first comes upon some of the plastic on his way back from a trans-Pacific sailing race, when the strongest El Nino on record forces a detour through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre — in sailor lingo, the doldrums. There, he and his travel companions find themselves slowly traversing what he describes as a “plastic soup,” asweeping mid-oceanic tract speckled with scraps of plastic. He is incredulous, yet galvanized.
PLASTIC OCEAN: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans by Capt. Charles Moore with Cassandra Phillips tells how Moore returns to this area, soon to be redubbed The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and culls scientific samples with a game but mostly neophyte crew. The results are shocking: plastic caught in his nets outweigh zooplankton, the oceans’ food base, by a factor of six to one. His research prompts a massive global reassessment of plastics’ invasiveness and raises profound questions about the implications of this man-made, floating landfill.
His initial voyage, his subsequent trips back, his research into this startling discovery, his hard-won scientific credibility, and his dogged, game-changing efforts to get the world to pay attention to a looming plastic peril, are chronicled in PLASTIC OCEAN.
About the Authors:
Capt. Charles Moore is a seafaring environmental researcher, a dynamic speaker, an internationally-recognized pollution expert and activist, and founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. He has appeared on Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Late Night with David Letterman, the Colbert Report, and in broadcast segments of programs seen on National Geographic Channel, the History Channel, and Animal Planet. He has been featured in numerous articles in magazines including Discovery, Best Life, US News and World Report, The New York Times Magazine, Wend, and Earth Island Journal. A Los Angeles Times multi- part article about the “Plastic Plague” in oceans, instigated by and featuring Moore, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Moore’s frequent voyages to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre generate extensive local, national, and international TV coverage. A film made by the producers of Academy Award-Winning March of the Penguins, entitled Plastic Planet and featuring Moore, was released last year. He lives in Long Beach, CA.
Cassandra Phillips has worked as a newspaper reporter, as story editor for an independent film producer, and as co-owner-operator of orchid nurseries in California and Hawaii. She co-authored The Passion Paradox: Patterns of Love and Power in Intimate Relationships. In 2006, she won grant funding from the USDA Small Business Innovation and Research program to investigate recycled plastics as an orchid growth medium. She has a B.A. in English from Pomona and a master’s in journalism from U.C. Berkeley.
Estimated at three million tons of plastic debris in the Northeast Pacific, between Hawaii and the West Coast, The Great North Pacific Garbage Patch is roughly two million square miles.
With recent natural disasters such as the Japanese tsunami and the flooding in Mississippi and the plastic waste that has been swept out to see as a result, it is more important than ever to clean up our plastics on land in order to keep them out of our oceans.
Captain Moore is one of the main drivers of our awareness of plastic pollution; PLASTIC OCEAN reminds readers that the cleanliness of our water is of utmost importance to our survival, the survival of other species both animal and plant on this planet, and inspires a fundamental rethinking of what happens when you throw away that plastic bag or bottle and where it ultimately ends up.