PICS: Solar Impulse 2 flies over 'plastic waste as big as a continent'

2016-05-04 16:30 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - It's a case of solar opposites... while the world's first successful round-the-world solar powered aircraft made its way over the Pacific, proving that green air travel is a viable prospect for the future, the pilot of the aircraft looked down on an island of rubble drifting in the world's largest ocean.  

The Solar Impulse 2 was making its historic 62-hour flight from Hawaii to California without fuel, when pilot Bertrand Piccard saw the horrific amount of plastic in our oceans.

Piccard tweeted a photograph of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to  Boyan Slat, the 21-year-old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, saying more should be done to clean up the world's ocean. 

This is what pilot Bertrand Piccard saw: 


“I flew over plastic waste as big as a continent,” Piccard tweeted. “We must continue to support projects like @BoyanSlat Ocean Cleanup.” 

Slat, a 21-year-old inventor from the Netherlands, last year patented a device able to clean the world's oceans in one foul sweep (literally). The device was installed in Japan for trial for the first time, and has since been ridding the world’s oceans of plastic trash. 


Slat’s Ocean Cleanup uses long-distance arrays, resembling a gigantic boomerang, that skim garbage from the surface of the oceans and holds it, while the currents bring up more and more garbage. The devise gathers the garbage as slowly makes it way through the sea. 

On its website, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation claims to be the “world’s first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic”. The concept has garnered widespread public admiration and support especially for Slat, a former aerospace engineering student who proposed the concept when he was only 17.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch refers to pieces of plastic suspended throughout a water column in the Pacific Ocean. The 'patches' of garbage appear at natural gathering points where rotating currents, winds, and other ocean features converge to accumulate marine debris, as well as plankton, seaweed, and other sea life.

According to the NOAA Marine Debris Programme, this is where the garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean sit: 


This is likely what Bertrand Piccard and fellow Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg saw when they took turns at flying the Solar Impulse 2 plane on an around-the-world trip, after taking off from Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates in March 2015. 

They made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan and Hawaii, and arrived in the Silicon Valley south of San Francisco following a 62-hour, nonstop solo flight without fuel. 

SEE: #FutureIsClean: 7 Awe-inspiring Solar Impulse 2 shots



The pilots said the endeavor was not only a demonstration of the importance of renewable energy, but also of the many challenges the human body can endure.


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