200 Years of Rubbish
Editor’s note: When Lord Byron wrote almost 200 years ago that “man marks the Earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore,” he didn’t know what deep ocean scientists would eventually find on the ocean floor, 4 kilometers below the surface in a remote spot far off the coast of Australia. The following is from a piece by Bryan Nelson describing the finding of a bizarre, deep sea fish without a face that has not been seen for nearly 150 years.
Aside from discovering strange and wondrous organisms, the expedition has also uncovered a monstrous reality happening at the bottom of our oceans: the amount of trash sometimes seems to outnumber the fish.
“There’s a lot of debris, even from the old steam ship days when coal was tossed overboard,” said the lead researcher. “We’ve seen PVC pipes and we’ve trawled up cans of paints. It’s quite amazing. We’re in the middle of nowhere and still the sea floor has 200 years of rubbish on it.”
The ocean’s abyssal plains are becoming our planet’s waste baskets, as toxins and dreck pile up in trenches and other low places of the sea floor. In fact, earlier this year scientists detected “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans.
It’s therefore increasingly important that researchers document the unique biodiversity of these little-studied parts of our planet to establish a baseline, so that future studies can more accurately calculate the impacts of pollution in these remote habitats.