The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: [physical geography] featuring the Plastiki
Noun: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Marine debris is litter that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch and the Pacific Trash Vortex, lies in a high-pressure area between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California. This area is in the middle of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
An ocean gyre is a circular ocean current formed by the Earth’s wind patterns and the forces created by the rotation of the planet. The area in the center of a gyre tends to be very calm and stable. The circular motion of the gyre draws in debris. Debris eventually makes its way into the center of the gyre, where it becomes trapped and builds up. A similar garbage patch exists in the Atlantic Ocean, in the North Atlantic Gyre. Read more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch on our website!
Cleaning up marine debris is not as easy as it sounds. Many pieces of debris are the same size as small sea animals, so nets designed to scoop up trash would catch these creatures as well. Even if we could design nets that would just catch garbage, the size of the oceans makes this job too time-consuming to consider. And no one can reach trash that has sunk to the ocean floor.
All the floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch inspired National Geographic Emerging Explorer David de Rothschild and his team at Adventure Ecology to create a large catamaran made of plastic bottles: the Plastiki. The sturdiness of the Plastiki displayed the strength of plastics and the threat they pose to the environment when they don’t decompose. In 2010, the crew successfully navigated the Plastiki from San Francisco, California, to Sydney, Australia.
The Wednesday Word of the Week is just one way to start expanding the breadth of your geographic vocabulary. Some words you’ll recognize, and some will be new. Regardless of whether you know the word or not, we at National Geographic Education challenge you to use our words of the week. Whether in the classroom, in everyday conversation, through the arts, or simply by checking out our provided links, we encourage you to make great use of our words in creative ways! Contact us with any questions, comments or concerns at NatGeoEd@ngs.org
–Julia from My Wonderful World