Encyclopedia Article

Tracking Trash, Loree Griffin Burns, 2007

The ocean's currents can move anything, including trash. Scientists are now studying the effects of our trash in the oceans and how it moves.
In Chapter one the author introduces us to Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer. After a huge ocean cargo ship lost twenty- two containers full of Nike tennis shoes during a storm, Ebbesmeyer used longitude and latitude to pinpoint the exact place where the ship lost the shoes. Since the shoes ended up on the West coast beaches, far from the crash, he started tracking the sneakers and other things to learn more about how the ocean moves. (3-6) Much like the shoe spill, in chapter three the author informs us of another spill. This time plastic bath toys were found floating in the ocean. Since the toys float differently than the tennis shoes, the spill gave Ebbesmeyer another thing to study and track. (21, 22, 23)
For a long time people have sent letters in bottles. In chapter two the author teaches us about scientist's modernized version of this, satellite trackable glass tubes. They came up with this method of tracking because most of the normal bottles were never found again. Being able to track these allows scientists and oceanographers to learn more about tides, currents, and waves. Oceanographer, W. James Ingraham, invented the software OSCURS to track and model currents in the ocean and the things they move. (11, 12, 13, 15, 16)
Our plastic is polluting oceans. The author tells us about this in chapter four. While sailing in the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and California, Captain Charles Moore found a huge patch of floating garbage. A sample of the water showed that for every pound of the zooplankton in the water there was six pounds of plastic! They even found plastic in the carcasses of dead animals. (34, 36, 38)
In chapter five the author tells us about the wad of tangled fishing nets that a group of scientists found off the coast of Hawaii. These nets are called "ghost nets" because, although they are abandonded, they still trap marine animals just like they were used for. To help the animals, teams go out to find, track, and remove these dangerous nets. (44-45)
Although Ebbesmeyer's tracking is less high- tech than the sattalite tracking, all of their work teaces us more about the motion of our oceans and how our trash can change the lives of the creatures in our seas.