Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States." Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic.
Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. 'It took us a week to get across and there was always some plastic thing bobbing by,' says Moore, who speaks in a jaded, sardonic drawl that occasionally flares up into heartfelt oratory.
'Bottle caps, toothbrushes, styrofoam cups, detergent bottles, pieces of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags.
Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, said more research was needed to establish the size and nature of the plastic soup but that there was "no reason to doubt" Algalita's findings.
Tiny plankton and bits of plastic commingle in this water sample taken in the vicinity of the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a large area in the North Pacific Ocean known for accumulations of plastic marine it did a shakedown cruise, readying to set sail to traverse the massive Eastern Garbage Patch, which lies between there and California.
The "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches.