News Stories

The Dead Zone

It's not just a book by Stephen King, it's an oxygen-starved area in the ocean where nothing can live. Scientists say there are more of these being created than ever before. Fishermen in Martha's Vineyard are discovering "Sea Balls" that have washed on shore. And that island paradise you dream of visiting? Don't look too closely.

Some of the ocean's "dead zones" are tiny, while others are vast. They're caused by the nitrogen in fertilizer washing into the sea. "Humankind is engaged in a gigantic, global, experiment as a result of the inefficient and often over-use of fertilizers, the discharge of untreated sewage and the ever rising emissions from vehicles and factories," said the UN's Klaus Toepfer. "The nitrogen and phosphorous from these sources are being discharged into rivers and the coastal environment or being deposited from the atmosphere, triggering these alarming and sometimes irreversible effects." Nitrogen fertilizer stimulates the growth of too much algae. When the algae sinks to the bottom of the ocean, it sucks up all the available oxygen, leaving none for other plants or fish, which then die. Nitrogen also gets into the ocean from fossil fuels.

Large dead zones are found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, the Baltic and Black seas, and parts of the Adriatic, as well as off South America, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand. Some of them are permanent, while others appear and disappear.

Hans Greimel writes that from a satellite, many Island "paradises" look like trash dumps stuck in the middle of the ocean. Small island countries in Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean often have no place to dump their trash, so they heap it in large piles that are getting so big they can be seen from space. The outline of the Pacific island of Nauru appears blue-green in aerial photos, from the mounds of discarded beer cans in the shallow water offshore.

In the Caribbean, about 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into the ocean, and in the Pacific it?s 98%. About one in 20 ocean swimmers worldwide become ill because of this. And this is another form of pollution that creates dead zones.

C.K. Wolfson writes in the Vineyard Gazette about the baseball-sized spheres that have started washing up on Martha's Vineyard beaches. The locals call them "sea balls."

They were first seen about 35 years ago. They're an intricate composition of ocean debris, such as seaweed, twigs, roots and eroded beach and sea grasses, that weave themselves together in the ocean. They're lighter in weight than tennis balls and can be round or oblong. They're like tumbleweeds, except that sea balls are formed in the ocean. The question that needs to be answered is: why are they only found in Martha's Vineyard?

To see a sea ball,click here.

Our oceans aren't just filled with trash, they also contain deep mysteries that have not yet been solved.

To learn more, click here and here.

NOTE: This news story, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.


Subscribe to Unknowncountry sign up now