Plastic Seas A Sea Captain Chances Upon a Sea of Plastic Waste—And a Lifelong Mission—in the Book Plastic Ocean

Plastic Oceans, Credit: Kevin Krejci, FlickrCCSailing the still waters of the Pacific halfway between Hawaii and California, a thousand miles from land, Capt. Charles Moore was not expecting to see litter. But not a minute passed without “a bottle here, a bottle cap there, scraps of plastic film, fragments of rope or fishing net or broken down bits of former things” floating by. The bits of plastic waste Moore sailed through would come to be known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” but Moore insists he was not a “latter-day Columbus discovering a plastic continent” but rather a “seafarer who noticed this immense section of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and the West Coast, was littered throughout with buoyant plastic scraps.”

In Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans (Avery), written with reporter Cassandra Phillips, Moore, a self-described lifelong “marine mammal,” guides readers through the 1997 voyage that acquainted him with “scientific controversy, skeptical officialdom and media glare.” And one that also gave him the opportunity to unravel the mysteries of our plastic-polluted waters and begin working for their restoration. He describes why oceans have become a “global dumpster,” his process of “trawling, spotting, retrieving and cataloging” marine plastic debris and why more plastic continues to accumulate in water bodies every year.

But Moore’s story is not “only about plastics.” Plastic Ocean also offers a glimpse inside the mind of an insightful oceanographer on a quest to end the current throwaway lifestyle that has culminated in countless disposable products and excess packaging being carried into our oceans and into the bodies of creatures who call those oceans home.