mh370_debrisWe all read the news about the tragedy that struck the Malaysia Airlines passengers from Flight 370 last month. The search for the missing plane was occupying the front pages of all news sites and papers, and people followed the attempts of numerous professionals and volunteers to identify objects that may belong to the aircraft.

Unfortunately, the search turned to be unsuccessful, and ocean scientists and environmentalists finally announced what made it so difficult- that was the incredible amount of floating garbage that mislead pilots and satellite imagery analysts.

Millions of people from around the world signed up on Tomnod, the website that recruited volunteers to visually scan thousands of satellite images and try to identify remains of the MH370 flight, which disappeared from the radar on 8th of March this year. If you were one of these volunteers, you are most likely aware of how easy it is to spot an object, which resembles a remain from a plane wreckage. Unfortunately, even the ones that really looked like such objects, turned out to be discarded fishing equipment and garbage brought to the ocean by rivers and tsunamis, or dumped at sea by shipping containers.

Oceanographers have long known about the problem of ocean pollution, which they even refer to as a phenomenon. The amount of trash that can be seen from simple satellite image is beyond belief. Most of the garbage is finishing related, although this industry is not the only one responsible. The oceans are full of items that have been once transported in shipping containers, and for one reason or another, have ended up in the water.

The objects that can be spotted vary from light bulbs, toilet seats, refrigerators, all the way to millions of LEGO pieces and computer monitors. For these to break down, it would take hundreds of years, and until then the plastics will just break to smaller and smaller pieces, which can easily be consumed by sea animals.

It is a shame that one tragedy brings forward a completely different and yet very pressing issue. It is of course questionable whether if these objects were not there to divert the attention, the teams would have spotted the real thing, but one thing is for certain. We all have to care about the environment that we live in, and who knows, maybe by reducing the amount of garbage we dump in the water, we might actually save lives.

Image (c) Digital Globe

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