An American explorer has made a tragic discovery after diving nearly seven miles down into the Mariana Trench at the bottom of the Pacific.
As well as finding a new species of prawn-like crustacean, Victor Vescovo also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers.
This sad fact shows that nowhere in our oceans is safe from the onslaught of plastic waste.
Vescovo spent four hours exploring the depths in a specially-built submersible. His feat has broken the record for the deepest dive ever achieved – but it will be the presence of plastic at such a remote part of the planet that will have the lasting impact.
The submersible was built to withstand extreme pressure and it allowed Vescovo to reach the record-setting depth of 10,927m (35,849ft), which is 11m deeper than the previous dive set by movie director James Cameron in 2012.
‘This submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to a ridiculously higher new level by diving – rapidly and repeatedly – into the deepest, harshest, area of the ocean,’ Vescovo said.
The team believe that the dive has yielded four new species of amphipods, prawn-like crustaceans that live down in the dark depths of the oceans.
Finding a plastic bag down there is, sadly, nothing new. Millions of tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean by humans each year.
The exact amount of plastic in our oceans is hard to quantify, because you have the tiny particles like microbeads to incorporate into the total.
Some plastic also just washes up on beaches rather than being in the ocean. This is still bad for the environment, but affects the overall amount. As well as this, the density of a certain plastics (PET) is heavier than water, so items sink to the sea floor.
What scientists do know, though, is that every year about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. In 2025, the annual input is estimated to be about twice that.
So, even if we started from no plastic in the oceans in 2015, by 2025 there could potentially be over 160 million metric tons of plastic in the seas. Even floating on the surface of the oceans right now, there’s up to 245,000 metric tons of plastic.
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