20 March 2018

The state of our oceans

Top photo:  location of uninhabited Henderson Island
Bottom photo: a beach on the island

Discussed at The Atlantic:
Henderson Island is about the most remote place you can visit without leaving the planet. It sits squarely in the middle of the South Pacific, 3,500 miles from New Zealand in one direction and another 3,500 miles from South America in the other. To get there, Jennifer Lavers had to fly from Tasmania to Tahiti, catch a small, once-a-week plane to the Gambier Islands, join a freight ship that had already sailed for 10 days from New Zealand, and ask it to change course for Henderson. No ship travels there unless you specifically ask it to...

When Lavers actually arrived on Henderson, she found that the situation was even worse than the images had suggested. At her landing site, her team immediately came across a truck tire—so large and deeply buried that they couldn’t move it. “That was a warning,” she said. “It got worse and worse. There’s an area that we call the garbage patch, where you can’t put your foot down without stepping on a bottle cap. The sheer volume really took my breath away for all the wrong reasons.”

Henderson should be pristine. It is uninhabited. Tourists don’t go there. There’s no one around to drop any litter. The whole place was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1988. The nearest settlement is 71 miles away, and has just 40 people on it. And yet, seafaring plastic has turned it into yet another of humanity’s scrapheaps. “It’s truly one of the last paradises left on earth, and one of the least visited but heavily protected bits of land on the planet,” Lavers says. “But I don’t think I’ve stood somewhere and been so utterly and completely surrounded by plastic.”


  1. yay, I have been to Gambier. Walked on the outer beach of the airport island, hardly any rubbish there, so I guess it also depends on location.

  2. Billions continue to crap all over our planet in ways and poundage to numerous to measure- and somehow we manage to convince ourselves that it never adds up and never has consequences...

  3. https://blog.education.nationalgeographic.org/2017/11/06/just-10-rivers-contribute-up-to-95-of-river-based-ocean-pollution/
    Not sure how true this is but I've seen photos in the past that would support it.
    Most of western plastic is recycled so, apart from the nasty chemicals getting in your food, very little ends up in the seas.
    Catching it at source wouldn't cost as much as trying to change the Western world's packaging.

    1. I've seen those type of photos as well; they are just gut-wrenching.

  4. The frustrating thing is Henderson Island probably wouldn't look like that if it were inhabited. There'd be people who picked up the litter.
    What they'd do with that litter, though, is what would really make the difference.
    I'm reminded of a lecture by a Cornell professor I heard in which he said, "In nature waste is food." There is no such thing as "waste" because everything is reused in some way.
    We need to find a way to do away with the concept of "waste".

  5. There is a Google Streetview of Henderson from June 2013. There is plastic lying around, but not as much as on these photos.


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