Some people take cruises to Alaska. Others go to the Caribbean. But this summer, 14 lucky people will take a 20-day cruise to the North Pacific Gyre, a giant floating garbage area twice the size of Texas. You may recognize the gyre under its more common name, the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.
As AOL News
reports, the cruise is a scientific expedition sponsored by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation
, a nonprofit that has run several similar trips to the North Pacific Gyre. This year's cruise, which costs $10,000 per person and will run from July 7 to 27, starts in Hawaii and ends in Vancouver, with most of the time spent in the middle of the gyre.
The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is one of the world's biggest environmental disasters — hundreds of miles of floating plastic bottles, bags and other junk. Much of that plastic trash has broken down over time, becoming tiny plastic particles that pollute the water and threaten all manner of marine life in the area. It's not all clumped together as an "island," as many people mistakenly believe. As MNN's Russell McLendon
wrote last year, "it's like a galaxy of garbage, populated by billions of smaller trash islands that may be hidden underwater or spread out over many miles."
The 14 paying passengers on this expedition won't spend their whole time sunning themselves on the lido deck. Instead, AOL reports, "they'll operate a trawl that will collect micro-plastic bits as well as hauling aboard larger items found thousands of miles offshore. Oh, and they'll also be helping sail and maintain the ship, stand watch at night and even do some of the cooking."
Part of the mission of this trip is to understand how massive amounts of plastic are affecting marine life. "All types of marine animals, including fish, birds and mammals, ingest this stuff," Algalita's lead scientist, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, told AOL. "Right now, we're studying to see if a fish eats plastic, does it reabsorb it? It happens in the lab, but not yet in nature."
So far, two of the 14 seats on the cruise have been filled. That leaves 12 more to go. Don't delay: this could be the eco-vacation of a lifetime, and a chance to help some important research in the process.