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Disposables destroying ocean life

Thor Heyerdahl’s fame rests on crossing the world’s oceans several times, on balsa wood and papyrus rafts, last century.
He framed an address to the United Nations’ 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment as question: “Is the ocean vulnerable?”
Relating from his voyages, he remarked that on the Kon-Tiki’s 1949 Pacific crossing, the only trace of man was an old sailing ship wreck on a coral reef.
The Ra I two decades later found “entire stretches of the Atlantic Ocean polluted,” the raft drifting for days on end “past plastic containers, nylon, empty bottles and cans” and, conspicuously, “small clots of solidified black oil.”
From Ra II, added to plastic litter “as far as we could see,” the raft’s dip nets brought up oil in 47 out of 53 days of the crossing.
He spoke of our dependence on the oceans, where life first evolved and from which derives not only much of the human food supply but most of the atmospheric oxygen which “man and beasts” need. This is produced by the plant plankton in the oceans’ surface layer, sunlit to maximally 100-meter depth in the tropics and, in the northern latitudes “on a bright summer’s day,” to at most 20 meters.
In the Newcastle Herald in October 2013, Ivan MacFaydyen, sailing the Pacific Ocean twice this century from Australia to San Francisco, reported on his 2013 voyage for an article entitled “The Ocean Is Broken.”
It answered Heyerdahl’s question about whether the ocean was vulnerable.
Except for wind whistling in the rigging, MacFaydyen found an eerie silence. Marine birds and fish were absent.
With easy, daily catch of a fish a decade earlier, last year’s crossing netted a total catch of two. In many years of spending time on the ocean, he said, he had been used to seeing big flurries of feeding birds, sharks and other marine creatures but for 3,000 nautical miles this time — “there was nothing alive to be seen.”
Worse yet was the encounter with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A mass of plastic debris and chemical sludge, it covers an area the size of the continental United States to a depth of 100-1000 feet.
He described it as “pieces of styrofoam by the millions, and slicks of oil and petrol everywhere.”
There were plastic bags and soft-drink bottles, and every kind of throwaway items you can image, throughout the entire, visible depth of the ocean.
For marine life, as Dr. Orr of Oberlin College concludes and MacFaydyen’s shocked observations confirm, the consequence of our garbage choking the ocean “is between disastrous and catastrophic.”
Heyerdahl had emphasized that the ocean, landlocked in every direction, has no single outlet while thousands of river inlets continually wash toxic chemicals, our urban debris and sewage, and deadly pesticides from agricultural fields into it.
He warned that, given the dependence of terrestrial life on life in the sea, “a dead sea means a dead planet.”
It would be a price for plastic throwaways, though marketed as “necessities” of the modern American lifestyle, that our descendants would surely have us avoid.