A Texas-sized task: The Times of London reports that next month scientists from San Francisco will map, explore, retrieve, and recycle a shifting continent of garbage in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of Texas. “The toxic soup of refuse was discovered in 1997 when Charles Moore, an oceanographer, decided to travel through the centre of the North Pacific gyre (a vortex or circular ocean current). Navigators usually avoid oceanic gyres because persistent high-pressure systems — also known as the doldrums — lack the winds and currents to benefit sailors. Mr Moore found bottle caps, plastic bags and polystyrene floating with tiny plastic chips. Worn down by sunlight and waves, discarded plastic disintegrates into smaller pieces. Suspended under the surface, these tiny fragments are invisible to ships and satellites trying to map the plastic continent, but in subsequent trawls Mr Moore discovered that the chips outnumbered plankton by six to one.” In June, the ship Kaisei will attempt to remove some of the refuse with a specialized net.
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