WASHINGTON — Fancy a holiday in a sea of junk? Environmentalists in the United States are offering "eco-adventurers" the chance to do just that.
From May 1 next year, the Sea Dragon will sail for two months through sections of the North Pacific Ocean swirling with debris from the March 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan, organizers said Wednesday.
"We'll be riding the same currents that are transporting cigarette lighters, bottle caps, children's toys and all manner of other plastic pollution generated by the tsunami," said expedition leader Marcus Eriksen.
The unique voyage is organized by the 5 Gyres Institute and the Algalita Marine Research Institute, both California-based non-profit groups that research and raise public awareness of plastic marine pollution.
Nine places are available on the Sea Dragon, a 22-meter (72-foot) former long-distance racing yacht, with the voyage being made in two stages -- the first costing $13,500 per person and the second priced at $15,500 per person.
Participants must agree to lend a hand to sail the steel-hulled sloop and to help researchers take stock of how the debris swept from the Japanese coast by the killer tsunami is drifting across the Pacific.
The first leg of the trip will depart the Marshall Islands for a section of the North Pacific Gyre known as the "western garbage patch" where little research has been carried out so far on plastic pollution.
Leg two will go due east from Japan to Hawaii through the gyre -- a vortex of ocean currents where seaborne litter accumulates -- to cross the so-called "Japan tsunami debris field."
"Of great interest to the researchers is how fast the plastic trash is traveling across the gyre, how quickly or slowly it is decomposing, how rapidly marine life is colonizing on it, and whether it is transporting invasive species," the organizers said.
Debris at sea fascinates oceanographers. In 1992 they seized upon the mid-Pacific loss of a container full of Asian-made rubber ducks, turtles, beavers and frogs as a unique chance to learn more about current flows.
Some of the bath toys washed up in Britain, most recently in 2009, apparently after being carried by the currents through the Arctic Ocean.