La gran isla de basura del pacífico


The great island of garbage in the Pacific, a place that nobody talks about but we all should know about.

Have you ever thought about what happens to that plastic bottle you threw at trash? If that bottle was lucky, and it was still in the garbage container, it must have already been incinerated or recycled. But if the opposite is the case, and for reasons of life, it ended up in Madrid's waterways, it is very likely that today this plastic bottle is part of the more than 8 million tons of plastic that float in the ocean. And even more disconcerting are the approximately 500 years that will have to elapse for this bottle to cease to exist.

It is very difficult to get rid of plastic when this material is found in practically everything around us: food, construction materials, kitchen utensils and cosmetic products. The amount of plastic waste that floats in the sea is so great that the same maritime currents have grouped it together and year after year "islands" of garbage have been formed.

Today there is not just one, but five garbage islands: two are located in the Pacific Ocean, another two in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean. These islands have created an invasive ecosystem in the sea, its size is almost 7 times that of Spain, and it has been given the name of "The seventh continent".

Infografía - La Isla de basura del  Pacífico

One of these islands is the Great Pacific Garbage Island. A mountain of garbage that is hidden under the sea which is estimated to have an area of ​​17,000,000 km2. The magnitude of this island is not possible to capture through satellite photography, it is only possible to observe its total dimension while being underwater and in front of it, or inside.

The Great Pacific Garbage Island, located between the United States and Japan, became the obsession of an athlete: Ben Lecomte, a 52-year-old French swimmer. Lecomte's name began to resonate in the media when, in 1998, he set his first sports challenge: Being the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the United States coast to the French coast. That time, there were 73 days of expedition and 5.980 the number of kilometers traveled.

Having achieved his goal, 20 years later, Lecompte once again embarks on an expedition. Now, he would cross the Pacific Ocean from Tokyo to San Francisco and thus set a new record. However, during the voyage, a storm ruined his support ship, forcing him to abandon the expedition and making him think that, this time, he would not be able to complete his feat.

On his return, something else caught the attention of this athlete. In the distance, he observed a large plastic "soup" floating in the middle of the sea. After investigating, he also discovered that what he saw was just the tip of the iceberg, of a great environmental disaster. Only 15% of the great island of garbage was noticeable, under the surface was, apparently, the remaining 85% that lay at the bottom of the ocean.

Isla de basura del pacífico

Since then, Lecomte set out to cross the Island, creating the new expedition “Vortex swim”. This time I was not going to travel 5.000 kilometers but 7.000 Beyond establishing a personal brand, his main objective was the collection of data, among them: 200 samples of microplastics and microfibers that were present on the island. In this way, it would facilitate research on the levels of pollution that exist in the ocean, and how these affect marine biodiversity and therefore our very existence.

There are many curious facts that the expedition of this intrepid athlete and explorer brings with it. Although, his "Vortex swim" crew is 9 people, divided into 2 support boats. Among them are photographers, with state-of-the-art 360° cameras, drones and aquatic robots, sailors and scientists.

For the study, Lecomte was submerged in water for 8 hours a day collecting water samples. The waste that he found was taken for analysis and, in turn, his team was documenting everything in real time through his Instagram account. They also created a web page, still available, where you can read a log of the trip and there is also a link where it shows you live where your journey is going, simply amazing!

Ben Lecomte - La gran isla de basura del pacífico

Now, the suit he used to swim is the most amazing thing! It is created with the highest technology so that each stroke that Lecomte made was information. For example, on his leg he wore a RadBand that allowed him to identify the levels of radioactive cesium in the water, a highly toxic nuclear component that can live in the sea for 20 or 30 years. The Radband favored the study of these microparticles that are affecting the acidity of the water and therefore the well-being of the species that inhabit it.

It also had a shark repellent bracelet, which, as its name suggests, emits waves to scare away white sharks that were in the process of migrating during the expedition and could put the journey and the crew at risk . His two boats carried GPS radars where they were constantly reporting to their base, at the University of Hawaii.

One of the most controversial images was a photograph of Lecomte sitting on a toilet, naked. The photo did not take long to go viral on networks. However, despite attracting public attention, Lecomte claims that society fails to see the magnitude of the problem, since he was miles away from the last time he set foot on land, and he was floating on a toilet! How did this get there? It is a question that triggers millions of possible answers, but the public was only left with the nudity of the photograph.

He was not only surprised by the objects that were found: toothbrushes, clothes, containers, fishing line, cans. But also, what is left of them when they begin to decompose, and they are those microparticles that are hard to collect that become so tiny that they are consumed by fish and eventually end up in our body, affecting our endocrine system.

One of the anecdotes that Lecomte tells that made the greatest impact on him was when, on one of those days, when lunchtime was approaching, they opened a fish, and inside it was a plastic mesh, and a suction cup, they knew they had to show this to the world.

Ventosas y plástico al interior de un pez

Also, another of the discoveries that caused Lecomte and his team the greatest interest was to discover that on this island that seems more like an oasis, species have adapted to this ecosystem creating life within it, without knowing what they are living inside chemical components.

Removing plastic completely from the world seems to be a complex task, especially when the consequences on our health and on marine ecosystems will begin to be seen in a few years. Lecomte, assures that in his first expedition he had never seen so much plastic. The problem is not the plastic itself, it is the use that people give it and how unaware they are when getting rid of it.

La gran isla de basura del pacífico

Let's follow Lecomte's example and worry about caring for something as wonderful and full of life as the sea, the ocean and the species that make it their home. Small actions are what count, and together it is possible to turn the utopia of a healthier and more habitable world into reality.