A Global Ocean Tragedy

Marine Debris

In our very first blog post on February 11, 2013, I referred to the vast amounts of debris that has washed ashore off the coast of Alaska and been identified as remnants from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.  But marine debris is by no means confined to Alaska’s waterfront or the result of a single event.  All of the world’s oceans and coastlines are inundated with trash, much of which is discarded plastic sweeping into the habitats of millions of animals and dramatically impacting our natural environment.

 Debris Off the Coast of Alaska from the Japanese Tsunami, 2013


Debris Off the Coast of Alaska from the Japanese Tsunami, 2013

“Gyre: The Plastic Ocean”

In an effort to call attention to what they refer to as “a global ocean tragedy,” The Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum have partnered to develop an innovative exhibition entitled, “Gyre: The Plastic Ocean.”  Twenty one artists from around the world were invited to participate in an expedition that combined scientific exploration with the creation of art incorporating ocean trash that they collected along the coast of South Central Alaska during the voyage. The term, ‘gyre,’ in the exhibition’s title signifies the large, swirling vortexes within the oceans that propel and disperse the debris worldwide.

Here are some images from the Gyre sea voyage showing the massive clean-up effort and the beginnings of the works of art that resulted from it.

 Gyre Artist Developing a Composition of Trash


Gyre Artist Developing a Composition of Trash

 Image of the Variety of Plastic Trash Found on the Expedition


Image of the Variety of Plastic Trash Found on the Expedition

 Artists and scientists removing trash from the Alaskan shore


Artists and scientists removing trash from the Alaskan shore

 Trash Boat


Trash Boat

In an astounding video of the Gyre expedition, produced by National Geographic, one of the artists refers to the plastic trash as the “cultural archaeology of our time, haunting the natural world in a terrifying way.” She went on to say that “there’s never been a society that’s produced so much material culture but taken the least responsibility for it,” and that “the action of cleaning a beach changes you – puts you in a position of care,” rather than as a mere bystander to the problem.

I was very much inspired by the Gyre expedition and the artists who participated in it. The exhibition will run from Feb. 7 through Sept. 6 at the Anchorage Museum and then travel to other locations worldwide.

 

 

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