Welcome to this month's Science in Fiction feature! Science in Fiction is a meme I created to showcase the wonderful aspects of science in Young Adult fiction novels. For more information and previous feature, check out the "Science in Fiction" tag!
This month, I'm featuring Dark Tide by Jennifer Donnelly!
Dark Tide is book three of the Waterfire saga, set completely undersea. Donnelly's spin on mermaids is completely unique and refreshing! Serafina and five other mermaids are tied together by a magical connection, and they must find six ancient amulets to stop the threat of destruction, both in the deep ocean, and top-world. In this series, Donnelly makes references to the state of the ocean, in terms of trash and waste and lost shipments.
So today, I'm going to talk about a very specific area in the ocean that is filled with trash - the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
You can see the "garbage patch" within the red circle. It's unclear exactly how large the Patch is, but it is massive, and very scary. The entire Patch isn't exactly what it sounds like - it isn't simply this island of water bottles and bags and junk. While there are water bottles and plastic (and even fleece jackets?!), the Patch is compromised of a whole bunch of microplastics debris, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Patch is, in a way, held and maintained where it is, because of ocean currents. There is a Western Garbage Patch and an Eastern Garbage Patch (see National Geographic's pictures), and both are where they are because of wind and waves. According to NOAA, it is entirely possible to ravel through the areas of the Patch and not see any garbage, or feel any debris. But that does not mean the Patch does not exist, or that we shouldn't be concerned about it.
The Western Garbage Patch was formed largely by the debris from the coast of Japan. The Eastern one was formed from the coast of the West Coast of the United States. The waters in these two areas are fairly stationary, and the wave currents keep the debris where they are. Debris can come from ships, docks, storm drains, harbors, etc.
Marine life is heavily affected by the Garbage Patch. Birds choke and die on plastics; organic pollutants clog the water and ecosystems, and these pollutants can kill native species. Invasive species are likely to be introduced in these areas, because of the debris.
It's sad and disheartening and infuriating, to see how human waste is accumulated and dumped. There is no easy solution when it comes to waste, but dumping in the ocean is not one of them. Too much is unbalanced - marine life, bacterial and microbial life, and even human life.
So, now that I've introduced you to this thoroughly depressing subject: did you know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Thoughts?