That, National Geographic has come out and said, is the sorry state of our oceans, as the ongoing search for Malaysian Airlines 370 has tragically demonstrated:
“This is the first time the whole world is watching, and so it’s a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps,” says Kathleen Dohan, a scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle, Washington, who maps ocean surface currents. “This is a problem in every ocean basin.”
Dohan plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video that shows where objects dropped into the ocean will end up in ten years. The objects migrate to regions known as garbage patches. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have two patches each, north and south. The Indian Ocean’s garbage patch is centered roughly halfway between Africa and Australia.
Because of its remoteness, the Indian Ocean garbage patch remains more of a mystery. It was discovered in 2010 by [Marcus] Eriksen [marine scientist and founder of the 5 Gyres Institute] and his crew, who sailed west from Perth, Australia, toward Africa to document it. Eriksen says it comprises a massive area, at least two million square miles (about five million square kilometers) in size, but with no clear boundaries.
If the plane went down in the gyre, it’s already drifting toward Madagascar. Bits should start showing up in the middle of the garbage patch in a year.