New continent discovered in Pacific Ocean: “Trashlantis”

Building a better future: One piece of junk at a time.
Building a better future: One piece of junk at a time.Courtesy thebigdurian
Just when you started to think things weren’t cool anymore (I know you were thinking that), something great comes up in the news, and turns your frown… upside down.

For the last few years the world has been sulking and pouting over the lack of continents. “We’ve discovered them all,” people say. Or, “Look at that darn Pacific Ocean, sitting there with practically no continents in it.” Or, “Hawaii must be so lonely!” Well, Lonesome No More!, Hawaii, because you’ve got a new friend, a friend the size of the continental United States!

Where did this massive mass come from? And how could such a thing have gone so far unnoticed? Whoa, explorers, one question at a time! The mass came from our own human ingenuity! That is to say, it’s trash! And we don’t really notice it because it’s largely translucent plastic, and because it’s located just beneath the surface of the ocean, so it can’t be seen in satellite photographs!

Now before you get excited and start purchasing real estate (although I like the way you think), our new garbage blob isn’t quite ready for building yet. It’s currently more of a “plastic soup,” held together by “swirling underwater current.” It is, nonetheless, a fairly cohesive chunk of junk, consisting of two connected bodies that span from about five hundred miles off of California almost to Japan.

Like many natural and quasi-natural wonders, however, Trashlantis is being threatened. Primarily by aquatic animals. Nearly 100,000 aquatic mammals choose to kill themselves every year by abusing floating garbage in some way or another, and sea birds have proven to be shameless garbage thieves, spiriting away everything from toothbrushes, to lighters, to syringes from our trashy endeavor. Where’s the proof? Inside their dead stomachs. Try to hide that, birds!

Approximately a fifth of the garbage dumped into the ocean comes from oil platforms and ships. If you want to ensure that Trashlantis remains more than a fable for your children and grandchildren, though, be sure to do your part, and produce as much plastic waste as possible, and dispose of it improperly.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Ben's picture
Ben says:

It would be nice to see a map that showed the affected area.

posted on Tue, 02/12/2008 - 12:13pm
twila_08's picture
twila_08 says:

This is not right. Would you want someone to dump trash in your front yard? I know I wouldn' t. I feel like the people who did this should clean this up.

Twila Turnage

posted on Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:39pm
ms awsome's picture
ms awsome says:

hi i really igree with you!!!! i have a bunch of it in my front yard adn i really don't think its right because you can't just dump your trash in other peoples property

posted on Thu, 02/14/2008 - 12:12pm
LEE's picture
LEE says:

i agree too. you wouldn't want to throw your trash outside your lawn. where do they throw all the trashes at? the water? no wonder a løt of animals/mammals are going extinct or their populations are decreasing, it's probably because of all the trash in the water killing all those mammals.

posted on Wed, 02/20/2008 - 10:58am
andyshadexx's picture
andyshadexx says:

I think each country should have more control over their trash problem *recycle* more!!

posted on Thu, 02/21/2008 - 8:24pm
Katei's picture
Katei says:

Omg. Why can't they clean it up.. or is that not physically possible?

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 5:43am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I bet it would be possible to clean some of it up, but it would also probably be prohibitively expensive.

Aside from the huge area it covers (imagine walking across all of Texas, picking up every little piece of litter you saw), part of the problem is that a lot of the plastic is no longer in big chunks. Sunlight has broken the plastic down into little tiny particles, and they have become mixed in with the surface water. So I expect the surface would have to be skimmed, or maybe even filtered. Which... isn't likely to happen. Unless someone like the guy mentioned in this post figures out a way to actually make some money doing it.

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 9:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Where does the link go to. I just tired it on Internet Explorer and I was routed to a 404 page.

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 12:39pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Hmm. Looks like that page died. It was a news article about the plastic vortex in the Pacific. I'll replace it with a link to Wikipedia's page on the subject.

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 1:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

another example of something we could clean up but choose not to because no money could be made from it(yet) and it costs too much to clean up. very lame excuse. i'm pretty sure if we make all the plastic companies chip in, they can cover it. we can waste lots of money making and buying the plastic but we don't want to waste money cleaning up the pollution. yea, sounds like humans.

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 5:59pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I see your point, but when I say it would be expensive, I mean it would probably be really really really expensive. It's made of fifty years of accumulated plastic trash. It never should have gotten there in the first place, but unfortunately it's there now.

It would be like trying to take the tomato out of a bowl of tomato soup, leaving the water content. Except the tomato is plastic here, and the bowl is about the size of a continent. It's a mind-bogglingly huge volume of water. Hopefully there'll be a practical solution at some point, but I'm not sure there's anything that makes a lot of sense just now. I could be wrong.

posted on Wed, 08/12/2009 - 9:39am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Skeptoid.com argues that Trashlantis is less impressive than it is often made out to be.

posted on Fri, 11/20/2009 - 5:52pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Yeah... I should probably reemphasize that despite the tone of my original post, I don't think anyone who knows much about the garbage patch would claim that it's actually a huge, solid island of trash. That's something I would do, because it's sort of... funny? But it also serves to confuse a real problem (lots of tiny tiny pieces of plastic aren't great for the ocean) by creating and emphasizing a fake aspect of it (there's no garbage continent). My bad.

Thanks for the link, Gene.

posted on Fri, 11/20/2009 - 6:38pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

What? You mean JGordon occasionally exaggerates to make a point? My entire world view has been shaken to its foundation! ;-)

posted on Fri, 11/27/2009 - 5:09pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Wow, that is crazy!!

posted on Fri, 03/05/2010 - 4:43pm
noneofyourbuisness's picture
noneofyourbuisness says:

thats just sad. :(

posted on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 3:12pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow that is crazy!

posted on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 1:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

insanly awesome

posted on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 7:25pm
Shandez's picture
Shandez says:

Lets just scoop it out! and burn it no more trash in the ocean please!

posted on Sun, 03/21/2010 - 8:03pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

The problem, Shandez, is that there's a lot of it, it's far out in the ocean, and a lot of the trash is made up of tiny, tiny pieces, so it would be very difficult to scoop it out of the water.

It might be nice to get rid of it, but I don't know that burning it is the answer—burning that trash would make it go up into the air, right? But just about everything that goes up into the air eventually comes back down, mostly into the oceans.

"No more" is the best part of your plan, I think. Before we can figure out if and how we need to deal with the garbage patch, we have to make sure we stop adding to it by throwing more stuff into the ocean.

posted on Thu, 03/25/2010 - 4:35pm
bobrandom22's picture
bobrandom22 says:

That is really sad!! We should focus on these problems and try to fix them :)

posted on Sat, 05/01/2010 - 4:47pm

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