A recent British-led expedition to the Arctic discovered something unbelievably depressing only 1.000 miles from the North Pole.
Unfortunately it was polystyrene, a type of plastic used in a variety of situations including construction and food packaging, and also chunks of plastic on the ice floes in the ocean. Previously researchers weren’t able to even access this area due to large pieces of sea ice. This is officially the furthest north of any ocean that plastic remains have been discovered!
British explorer Hadow was the leader of the Pen Hadow’s Arctic Mission crew, whose mission was to collect important data from that area. Besides being a remarkable explorer, he is also the only person who has gone alone on such a dangerous mission stretching from Canada to the geographic North Pole, without resupplying.
It wasn’t expected for Hadow and his team to even access the area, which most of the time is fully covered with ice throughout the whole year, let alone the polystyrene they found so far from the land.
In an interview with The Guardian, Hadow stated that in the 25 years he’s been exploring the Arctic, this is the first time in his life to see such large and very visible items of plastic garbage.
“The blocks of polystyrene were just sitting on top of the ice”, says Hadow.
The largest piece of garbage they found, was on an ice float located in the middle of international waters in the central Arctic Ocean region. Icebreakers need to be used to actually go there. This is further than anyone has even been.
According to marine biologist Tim Gordon of Exeter University, signs of garbage there, means there’s danger that the ice which is melting might be allowing high levels of pollution to drift into the ocean. Also as part of the crew, Gordon thinks this could be potentially a very big threat for Arctic’s wildlife as well.
Rivers that flow in the Arctic distribute the plastic, and before the increase in temperatures, this garbage usually got trapped in the ice. Although not a positive thing, at least it wasn’t going anywhere. Now as the sea ice is slowly melting, this plastic pollution poses a great danger especially if tiny pieces of plastic are swept further out to sea.
Researchers are worried for the previously untouched flora and fauna of this area.
“The Arctic Ocean’s wildlife used to be protected by a layer of sea ice all year round. As it’s melting away, this environment will be exposed to fishing, shipping, and industry for the first time in history”, points out Gordon, as he is worried that this might be a huge threat for Arctic’s animals and urges to find a way to protect them.