Lost a favorite plastic mug? Synthetic fleece socks? Maybe a preferred leash? Have you checked the bottom of the Mariana Trench, some 10km below the surface of the ocean? ‘Cause it’s apparently full of garbage.
A report in the Guardian this week about how polluted some unfathomably deep parts of the ocean have become had lots of disturbing tidbits like this one: “Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China” (emphasis mine, because, woah).
“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” said Alan Jamieson, a scientist at Newcastle University who guided the research project the Guardian article was based on.
You don’t say.
The scientists discovered that lots of the stranger-than-strange critters bumping around the bottom of the sea in the dark are now hopelessly contaminated with nasty, toxic chemicals like PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), a substance we stopped making in the ’70s because we learned that it causes cancer.
Problem is, lots of the PCBs made before the health effects were known have trickled down to ocean, and continued to fall and collect at the bottom, a place inhabited with world-class scavengers, who lustily disassemble and eat pretty much whatever falls into their terrifying kingdom.
And it ain’t just the Mariana trench that’s filling with pollution.
The Kermadec trench, thousands of miles away, is also loaded with PCBs and other pollutants. The stuff is everywhere, discovered in “in all samples across all species at all depths in both trenches,” according to the researchers who made the discovery.
Oh and they found beer cans in the Mariana trench, too. Budweiser. And cans of Spam. And plastic bags.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of miles from any industrial activity, our poisons and garbage are collecting in the most unreachable parts of the Earth. We’re a disgusting species, basically.