Plastics And The Subantarctic Islands

A great diversity of discarded plastic and other manufactured objects wash up on the shores of the Subantarctic Islands (Figs 11.2 and 11.3). Plastic crates, con-

Sub Antarctic Climate
Fig. 11.1 Aluminum-framed, otter-style neuston net used in surface trawling for pelagic plastics and tar balls; suspended over ship's side (a) and streaming away from ship's side (b). The mouth of the frame is 0.4 m x 0.4 m.
Fig. 11.2. Plastic items washed up on the sandy beach of North West Bay, Campbell Island. The large crushed container is of French origin, and the two smaller items (A) are of U.K. manufacture. Note the pieces of broken high density plastic fishing float (B) and cordage (C).
Fig. 11.3 Assembled representative items recovered in the vicinity of Derry Castle Reef, Enderby Island. Note the polypropylene strapping (A), cordage, parts of wooden packing crates, and also incipient crazing evident on the inside of a broken high density plastic fishing float (B).

tainers and bottles in varying shapes, colours and sizes, with a multitude of uses from the cosmetic and medical to detergents and agricultural chemicals abound. Their various caps and tops are also abundant. Polypropylene strapping in all lengths up to several metres, and generally blue but sometimes yellow, together with varying-sized chunks of foamed (polystyrene) plastic are widespread. Polythene sheeting and bags of all sizes are quite common. Several bulky (c. 5 kg) masses of colourless plastic wrapping sheet were also recorded.

Small pieces of string and twine, together with frayed rope and cordage, frequently green or orange, were ever present. Knotted, tangled and lengthy (> 10 m) pieces of heavy rope and hawsers, as well as general purpose cargo and fishing net of various dimensions are quite common (Figs 11.3 and 11.4). Several kinds of plastic and aluminium fishing floats are a conspicuous element of the litter. Other persistent items include glass bottles, light bulbs, disposable cigarette lighters, cloth and clothing and footware, but these together with metallic objects such as drums, cans, tins and aerosol containers are seldom as visually obvious as the plastic debris.

The quantity of smaller degrading plastic fragments observed is surprisingly small, when the numbers of larger more or less unbroken as well as crushed and partly broken plastic containers are considered. Small virgin plastic granules (or nibs) of the kind that are so widely distributed in the wrack of New Zealand beaches (Gregory, 1978) have not been found on these Subantarctic island shores.

Paper and cardboard containers or boxes, together with cellophane and other wrapping materials of the kinds which are common in the domestic litter of mainland New Zealand shores (e.g., Hayward, 1984; Ridgway and Glasby, 1984) are a very minor component of that stranding on these remote, seldom visited, islands.

Pieces of lumber, dunnage, sawn and dressed timber, and parts of packing crates and boxes, together with obvious ship wreckage such as spars and fittings, are particularly plentiful near Derry Castle Reef, Enderby Island, and minor quantities were found elsewhere. Natural driftwood is not uncommon. Most pieces are small and gnarled and, like the worked wood, bleached white from long exposure to the elements and much abraded and worn. Rounded pumice clasts, up to and exceeding 300 mm across, are almost invariably present.

Fig. 11.4. Large piece of (green) netting stranded on Enderby Island.

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