'A plastic soup, thousands of miles from land.'

Marine scientist Rowan Henthorn took part in the eXXpedition, an all-female journey across the north Pacific to inspect and sample plastics pollution. She was an ambassador for UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man. She writes about what she experienced:

It's great to be back on our beautiful Island after what seems like a crazy whirlwind dream across the great Pacific garbage patch.

It's been fantastic to come back to the Island just as the first phase of the single-use plastic plan is launched by the Isle of Man Government.

Going to such a remote region on earth and seeing the devastating impact of plastic pollution really gives me the motivation to continue working on ways to reduce our reliance of single-use plastics on land.

Three weeks at sea really felt more like three short days, working with the most incredible team and crew really made the time fly.

We were met with the full force of the ocean, experiencing wind, waves and squalls throughout the three week trip.

Despite conditions making the collection of scientific samples incredibly challenging, we managed to collect all of the data we initially set out to, and samples are now being sent all over the world to help further research into plastic pollution.

I think when most people think about the great Pacific garbage patch, they imagine a vast island of plastic floating on the surface of the ocean, but the reality is much worse.

Having travelled out from Hawaii we awoke on the fifth day to a sea of floating plastic around our boat, from that point on we constantly passed recognisable plastic items such as toothbrushes, bottles and food packaging.

Perhaps the most shocking discovery came when we put our trawl into the water, a net designed to pick up the smallest plastic particles. What appeared to the eye as an endless blue ocean was actually full of microscopic plastic particles, a plastic soup, thousands of miles from land.

Getting the opportunity to go out to one of the most remote regions on earth and see the devastating impact we have had on this ocean and its inhabitants really put things into perspective.

The vast quantity of plastic within the gyre and the sheer size of the area really makes the prospect of cleaning it up quite impossible.

However, it's vital we take that as motivation to change our consumption of plastic on land and stop the problem at its source.

Millions of tonnes of plastic waste have made it into the ocean, and millions of actions must now be made to reduce and change the way we as a society use and dispose of plastic.


Posted up on 14th August 2018


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