In Seattle on Monday I had a meeting with Bob Pavia from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – also known as NOAA. (Someone did comment, when they heard I was going to be meeting Noah, ‘I didn’t know he was still around.’)
‘While you’re here,’ Bob said, ‘You should try and meet Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the guy who tracked the Nike trainers when they went overboard from a container ship. He lives just a few blocks away.’ A quick Google or two turned up a phone number, and Curtis came to meet me in Zoka’s.
The photo shows us poring over a map of the world, on which Curtis has marked the huge ‘Garbage Patches’ – the areas in the centre of ocean gyres where rubbish accumulates. My route from San Francisco to Hawaii will take me past the Great Northern Garbage Patch – an area roughly four times the size of Texas. Curtis estimates that the patch holds around 200 shipping containers and 50 deserted yachts as well as discarded refrigerators and TV’s.
During my row I will be logging any sightings of debris, including a GPS position. I will need to see this with my own eyes. It sounds awful almost beyond belief.