Origins of Giant Ocean Garbage Patches Revealed
The month of June honors both National Ocean Month and World Ocean Day (June 8). What better time, then, to check out photos of undersea life and be reminded that things "down there" are just as important as things up here on land. Here, a manatee goes about its day. The manatee, also known as a "seacow," is an air-breathing herbivore listed as a federally endangered species. Manatees are slow moving and can't swim quickly away from boats. This often results in collisions that can kill or injure them.Whales Counted With Space Satellites
Life's a beach. Mom and her baby elephant seal roll around in the sand in Ano Nuevo Island, Calif.Elephant Seal Calls Tell Rivals Who's Boss
Robert Schwemmer, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries
A humpback whale breaches in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California.Distinct Humpback Whale Populations Found in North Pacific
A blue rockfish fans for the camera in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in California.200-Year-Old Fish Caught Off Alaska
A Southern sea otter, aka,
Enhydra lutris nereis
, wonders what all the fuss is about, at South Harbor, Moss Landing, Calif. The World Ocean Day Photo Contest entrant was Submitted by Dr. Steve Lonhart.PHOTOS: Otter vs. Gator: Otter Wins
A white-lobed sponge brightens up the scenery. It's one of several images of rarely seen deep-sea animals that were captured on camera in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary during a NOAA expedition. Researchers used a NOAA remotely operated vehicle in waters 328 to 656 feet deep off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The research was funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.Strange, Carnivorous Sponge Found In Deep Sea
This image brimming with colorful marine life is from the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. It's a huge oval coral reef within several internal reefs and is the second largest among the six atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.PHOTOS: Sharks, Marine Mammals Hang in Paradise
Having no backbone isn't always a bad thing! Just ask any octopus. These boneless invertebrates know how to squeeze into (and out of) many a tight spot. They have three hearts, nine brains and blue blood. (Two hearts send blood to the gills, while the third pumper sends it to the rest of the body.)VIDEO: Octopi Have a Brain in Every Tentacle
Rapture Reef sits within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The monument encompasses more than 140,000 square miles of ocean and coral reef habitat.PHOTOS: Life in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
This seal is eager to wriggle its way back to freedom, as divers release it from fishing nets. Marine debris -- such as these nets -- makes a serious impact on its surroundings. From being an eyesore on a beach to injuring marine life or stopping a 400-ton vessel at sea, it causes problems that are difficult to ignore.Seal Pup Found in Forest
One of our planet’s most appalling eyesores — and significant environmental problems — is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling collection of mostly plastic trash and smaller particles of decomposing debris dumped by humans. Now, according to a newly published study in the journal Chaos by University of New South Wales, researchers have developed a computer model to help figure out where all that the trash is coming from.
The results are a bit startling.
“In some cases, you can have a country far away from a garbage patch that’s unexpectedly contributing directly to the patch,” said Gary Froyland, a mathematician at UNSW.
Trash that originates in Madagascar and Mozambique, two nations that border the Indian Ocean, most likely flows into the south Atlantic Ocean, according the the model. The researchers also may be able to estimate how long it takes trash from Australia, for example, to drift into the northern Pacific.
According to Charles Moore of the Agalita Marine Research Institute, who discovered the patch in 1997 and has been tracking it ever since, the floating equivalent of a landfill now stretches for hundreds of miles in the Pacific between California and Hawaii. But the Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t an anomaly. Scientists say there are at least five giant garbage patches floating in the world’s oceans. Each of the floating masses of trash is located in the center of large, circular ocean currents called gyres that suck in and trap floating debris.
The researchers also have discovered that the borders of the world’s oceans, which generally are delineated by fast-moving currents, aren’t exactly as they traditionally appear on maps. According to the new model, parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans are actually most closely coupled to the south Atlantic, while another sliver of the Indian Ocean really belongs in the south Pacific.