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Trash: going where no man has gone before

Amanda Coulas   |   December 3, 2014

I have arguably the most awesome job in the world: I head up a company that makes remotely operate vehicles for exploring under water. I make remote control submarines! In less than 30 seconds I can be cruising a shipwreck looking for lost treasures and dreaming about the days when the mighty ship sailed, or exploring a reef full of the most colourful fish on Earth, or staring right into the eye of an enormous whale… the possibilities are endless.

But no matter where in the world I toss a Deep Trekker into the water, I encounter one similarity: trash. Trash in unimaginably pristine places, laying there, unnoticed by all but the fishes, leaching toxins, capturing sea life, and destroying habitat. Apparently, I’m not the only ROV pilot who is discovering this.

A large-scale study of the European seafloor has found trash in all their sampling locations, to a depth of as much as 4.5 km below the surface—in areas where humans have even yet to explore. How sad. Our trash came before us.

In this study, Co-author Dr. Kerry Howell said, "This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans. Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans, and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us." Lead author Christopher Pham added, "The large quantity of litter reaching the deep ocean floor is a major issue worldwide. Our results highlight the extent of the problem and the need for action to prevent increasing accumulation of litter in marine environments."

If there is a good thing that could come from providing access to quality, commercial-grade ROVs to a broad audience by keeping the purchase cost as low as possible, it is bringing first-hand awareness to this huge and growing problem. There is nothing like holding the live picture of our man-made destruction in your own hand to shock you into awareness. There is still so little general awareness. Stats and studies are great; these will drive the solutions. In our Social (media) world, a picture says more than a thousand words. Do you own an ROV? Underwater Camera? Take video, take photos and post them far and wide in social media (or send them to us!). Spread the awareness.

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