There are conflicting forecasts for the post-tsunami trash flow headed our way after Japan's catastrophic earthquake more than a year ago.
Some scientists say it will all have been dispersed by the time it reaches our shores, and we'll barely even notice it among our usual flow of sea junk.
L.A. environmental researcher Marcus Eriksen begs to differ, and he's setting out on a cross-Pacific voyage, on a sailboat, to prove that the debris is out there, and that it's headed our way.
A 72-foot racing sloop, the Sea Dragon, will take Eriksen and company (Pangea Explorations and Algalita Marine Research Institute are equal partners) from Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands through the Western Pacific Gyre in search of … trash.
It happens to May 1 through May 23, although he told us another leg will start in Japan and then head back to Hawaii by July.
Now you would think that debris sightseeing on the high seas wouldn't exactly comprise the hot cruise of the moment, but eco-consciousness is a big deal.
And so the tour is booked. At a cost of
$13,500 $9,500 each for all 18 seats available on the first leg alone. Eriksen says the price is a break-even cost for the trip, which includes renting the Sea Dragon.
He expects to find Japanese trash. Eriksen told the Weekly:
Any debris could be less than half way across by now. What you have now is mostly platics and anything trapping air — car tires on rims, light bulbs. That's been our organization's interest, the dispersal of plastics in oceans worldwide.
His organization is 5 Gyres, the L.A.-based group that has helped to bring attention to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the world's seven other oceanic garbage patches by sailing through them and documenting what it sees.
It ain't gonna be pretty. Eriksen:
The models we're using put the tsunami debris field right there above Midway [Atoll]. And we take turms collecting samples, doing the science work. We're goign to have people on debris watch almost 24/7.