Friday, October 30, 2009

Heartbreaking - Message from the Gyre - Midway Atoll

The most astonishing and heartbreaking pictures from photographer Chris Jordan. This is his message:
Message from the Gyre

These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.

To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world's most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.

~cj, October 2009

See the full set of photographs here.
See his blog post here:
First photos released!

Scientific American has a new article on this titled Plastic, plastic everywhere, nor any bite to eat: Pacific albatrosses feast on garbage patch offerings
An excerpt:
Ocean currents have brought together a big floating mass of trash, known as the Pacific Ocean's garbage patch. To see how different colonies of albatross might be affected, researchers attached tracking devices to dozens of adult birds from two groups of birds living about 2,150 kilometers apart—one on Oahu Island in Hawaii and another in Kure Atoll, northwest of the main Hawaiian islands, closer to the International Dateline. The researchers also collected regurgitated boluses from the chicks in these colonies to see how much unnatural flotsam the small fowl had been fed.

"We suspected that there may be some differences in the amount of plastic was ingested, but to discover that birds on Kure Atoll ingested 10 times the amount of plastic compared to birds on Oahu was shocking," Lindsay Young of the University of Hawaii and lead study author, said in a prepared statement.

Being fed more plastic and less natural food can stunt the growth of chicks and even kill some birds, the authors noted in the paper. The study's small sample size, however, did not allow researchers to discern how much of an impact the plastic might be having on the populations.

The team found that the birds from Kure Atoll, which brought back more plastic, spent a lot of time over the so-called western garbage patch between Asia and Hawaii, even though the Oahu birds lived close to bustling Honolulu and the more widely studied eastern garbage patch (between Hawaii and California). The plastic that the Kure Atoll birds had eaten appears to have largely come from Asia.

Among commonly recovered plastic items include lighters, fishing line and oyster spacers—likely discarded at sea by those in the fishing industry. Others have more commonplace trash, and one even had ingested an intact, sealed jar of face lotion.

"There was so many small plastic toys in the birds from Kure Atoll that we joked that we could have assembled a complete nativity scene with them," Young said.


  1. Thanks for checking out the post Bruce. I've been haunted by the images and story of these chicks. We really need to get rid of the plastics!