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.”