The Great Pacific garbage patch is a region in the central North Pacific Ocean characterized by a great concentration of plastics and other traces of human trash. Here's an approximate map:

garbage map

Is it possible for a tourist to somehow visit this area? Judging from the map, Hawaii seems to be the closest human settlement. Are there any tours departing from Honolulu that explore this ecological disaster?

  • Aren't they the size of a large country? Wouldn't it be a bit like going on a visit to Germany to view street litter?
    – Berwyn
    Jun 18, 2016 at 7:18
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    I wasn't questioning your motivation, just the logistics of "visiting" an area of water the size of Europe
    – Berwyn
    Jun 18, 2016 at 7:25
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    "Because of its large area, it is of very low density (4 particles per cubic meter), and therefore not visible from satellite photography, nor even necessarily to casual boaters or divers in the area. It consists primarily of a small increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column." I don't really know that there's a whole lot to see there, just a higher concentration of plastic trash than other parts of the ocean. Jun 18, 2016 at 7:26
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    See also this article: "A comparison I like to use is that the debris is more like flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup, rather than a skim of fat that accumulates (or sits) on the surface." Jun 18, 2016 at 7:29
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    If you want to see more concentrated trash, in big pieces, travelling about 25 km out to sea from the northern Guerrero coast in Mexico will do it. Ironically this location also has about the best big-fish fishing you'll find left anywhere now. I don't know if the latter is because of the trash itself (a lot of it is wood that would likely be there even without people) or the current that makes the trash collect there.
    – user38879
    Jun 18, 2016 at 14:24

3 Answers 3


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch doesn't exist, not in the sense you are thinking.

The name "garbage patch" may conjure up an image of a gigantic bouillabaisse of floating trash: empty soda bottles, soggy cast-off clothing, old pizza boxes.

It's nothing of the kind. The "garbage" consists of tiny plastic particles, too small or almost too small to see, and the average concentration of debris is 5.1 mg per square meter of ocean, considerably cleaner than an Olympic swimming pool with a single gum wrapper in it.

The Patch may have long-term environment effects, I don't know, but I know you cannot see it.


You can be a part of a clean up project for $10,000


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    That’s a cool link, even if the report was from 2011. You could turn this into an even better answer if you include further essential parts of the article in your answer here. Links may become unavailable over time, so we prefer the information to be present here. Remember to use quotation style when quoting; adding a > to the beginning of the line will format a citation as a blockquote.
    – Jan
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:34
  1. it moves around, so there's no fixed place to visit
  2. there's nothing to see. Not only are the bits and pieces small and mostly invisible against sea water, they're also mostly below the surface
  3. disaster tourism is generally discouraged in any civilised nation
  4. there's simply not enough (luckily) interest to organise tour boats (well, tour cruise liners, a typical tour boat wouldn't survive that far out to sea)

No doubt you can charter a large ocean going ship and go looking, if you have the funds. But why would you want to?

  • Is it really "disaster tourism" if no humans were hurt?
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 18, 2016 at 9:42
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    @JonathanReez depends on what "hurt" means. In fact there may not be visible direct consequences, but humans definitely get hurt with this mass of polution.
    – nsn
    Jun 18, 2016 at 9:54
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    I don't think going to a part of the ocean that has more pollution than average is "disaster tourism." It may not be a particularly interesting thing to do unless you're conducting a scientific study (because of reason #2), but it's hardly using the victims of a disaster for your own purposes. Jun 18, 2016 at 19:38
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    @JonathanReez going somewhere because you think it's a disaster happening there would in my book be disaster tourism even if nothing was happening... There's people booking tickets to see a volcano that's expected to erupt just because they want to see the resulting destruction FFS. Wonder if they demand their money back if the predicted eruption never happens...
    – jwenting
    Jul 8, 2016 at 16:17

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