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Before this trip, I was never all that crazy about the ocean. I’ve always appreciated the fact that it generates the majority of the world’s oxygen and keeps us nice and far from places like Europe, but in terms of any sort of awe or “respect” it just never happened. I would say I looked at it less as the primeval womb of all terrestrial life than as an excessive amount of water you sometimes have to fly over.
Part and parcel with this was my attitude toward the Pacific Garbage Patch, or as we willfully misidentified it for the duration of our journey, the elusive Garbage Island. All the journalism I’d read about the patch had carefully danced around physical descriptions of the trash, leading myself and the rest of the shooting crew to fanciful visions of a solid, Texas-size barge of discarded Coke bottles and sporting goods. The idea that people had managed to fuck up a part of the world that nobody even visits, much less inhabits, and on such a monumental scale struck me as interesting and, to be honest, slightly awesome-sounding, but at the end of the day the impact of the mess on the rest of the world failed to register. I mean, sure, sea birds choking to death on deflated balloons and sea turtles whose shells have been completely deformed by soda can rings - all this definitely sucks, but so do a lot of things, you know?
Needless to say this whole journey ended up overturning my expectations about the Garbage Patch, as well as just about every misconception I’ve ever held about the sea, environmentalism, consumption, barfing, knots, pollution, humanity, and myself.
VBS CORRESPONDENT THOMAS MORTON