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The Vortex of 80,000 Nikes
The North Pacific Gyre

Contrary to popular beliefs, Fresh Kills in New York City's Staten Island doesn't contain the biggest collection of garbage in the world. What Wikipedia says “could be regarded as the largest man-made structure on Earth, with the site's volume [...] exceeding the Great Wall of China” and was once the temporary dump site for the remains of the WTC Towers isn't the largest landfill at all.

In fact, the largest landfill isn't even on land, but rather it is trapped in an oceanic riverine system known as the North Pacific Gyre.

Wikipedia again: “The centre of the North Pacific Gyre is relatively stationary and the circular rotation around it draws waste material in. This has led to the accumulation of flotsam and other debris in huge floating 'clouds' of waste, leading to the informal name The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Eastern Garbage Patch. While historically this debris has biodegraded, the gyre is now accumulating vast quantities of plastic and marine debris.”

It is so vast, apparently, that these floating clouds have a total area equal to that of 2 Texas.

Which directly leads me to wonder: can you collect these patches to create a floating solid ground?

It'll be like a new Pacific island nation molded together out of “80,000 Nike sneakers and boots” and “tens of thousands of bathtub toys and hockey equipment” lost overboard from cargo ships.

Or a recycled ocean cruisers from where eco-terrorists hunt down polluting holiday cruise ships in the high synthetic seas.


Or better yet, dump it all on the Polynesian archipelago of Tuvalu, which Der Spiegel says is “currently only 10 centimeters above sea level” and “likely to become the first country to succumb entirely to climate change.”

Paradise Lost it may certainly be, but it may yet still be Arcadia Regained from the bottom of the ocean.


Of course, the islanders have the option of not anchoring this newly accumulated stratum of detritus to their former nation; they could submit it to the whims of the ocean currents and trade winds.

And in their intraoceanic meanderings, they'll meet other climate change refugees on their own island nations made out of Barbie dolls. A new trade group could be formed, with the goal of developing self-sufficient economies and expanding their territorial boundaries by mining the Pacific for consumer goods Made in China.


Is this the future site of the New Central Park of the Pacific, designed by Fresh Kills head designer James Corner?

Open-Ocean Aquaculture

  • Anonymous
  • October 5, 2007 at 7:44:00 PM CDT
  • Thank you for an interesting post. This problem needs more exposure. I first read about it here:

  • Blaize
  • October 6, 2007 at 2:57:00 PM CDT
  • My dad is a volunteer for a couple of marine science organizations, and he has a list of people to whom he emails things of interest in marine science. I sent him this link, and it went out to his list. Thank you for the interesting and important post.

  • Anonymous
  • December 11, 2007 at 3:59:00 PM CST
  • This is the second or third time I have read about this. I have seen it on major news. But, like them, this site also lack photographs. Please present evidence. I don't know if I should believe this any more than I should believe an email story.
    I don't mean to be pessimistic or unfeeling, but it seems to me that if this gigantic vortex exists as described, photos should not be so hard to come by.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • December 11, 2007 at 4:59:00 PM CST
  • How about the definition for the word diffuse, courtesy of

  • Anonymous
  • May 2, 2008 at 12:20:00 AM CDT
  • This is amazing, I never thought that my garbage might be better traveled than I am.
    It's fun to speculate about future island nations on man-made land, but this can't be good for wildlife (or ultimately for us). Surely the whales and dolphins don't think this is funny. I feel shame that one day there will be strata of sedimentary rock composed of soda cans, goretex, and ikea furniture. But since it's in international waters will it just become another tragedy of the commons? Who looks after the great Pacific?

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