August 4, 2009

Scientists to examine floating dump

A group of scientists set sail from San Francisco Tuesday to study the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- a floating dump some say is twice the size of Texas.

The researchers say they hope to learn more about the watery garbage dump -- about 1,000 miles west of California -- such as its size, its effects on marine life and whether it can be cleaned up, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

This is a problem that is kind of out of sight, out of mind, but it is having devastating impacts on the ocean. I felt we needed to do something about it, said Mary Crowley, co-founder of Project Kaisei, a non-profit expedition partnering on the voyage with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Researchers admit they don't know much about the garbage patch phenomenon, including when it

began forming or its boundaries. They theorize trash such as plastic containers and fishing line washes down storm drains and rivers from places such as the San Francisco Bay area or Japan, eventually floating into several large ocean vortexes where currents swirl like water circling a drain, the newspaper said.

Scientists and researchers will travel to the garbage patch aboard two ships.

We are going to try to target the highest-plastic areas we see to begin to understand the scope of the problem, said Miriam Goldstein, chief scientist of the Scripps expedition.