La Jolla researchers to visit Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Researchers from La Jolla and a San Francisco-based nonprofit will board two ships this weekend for a $1.1 million voyage that will launch the most extensive study of a waterborne landfill 1,000 miles off the coast of California, it was reported Thursday.

SEAPLEX: Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition

UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and San Francisco’s Project Kaisei’s trip to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch will last for nearly four weeks, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation brought the garbage patch to the scientific community’s attention in 1999. Foundation spokeswoman Gwen Lattin told the Union-Tribune that a Pacific Rim trade wind directs trash dumped in the ocean and other waterways toward the patch.

Project Kaisei founder Doug Woodring told the newspaper that the ultimate goal of this weekend’s voyage is to start the process of cleaning upthe mess, a feat that several leading researchers have said is impossible.

But even under the worse-case scenario, the voyage will raise awareness about the harmful effects of discarded plastic products on the Pacific Ocean’s ecosystem, Woodring said.