Friday, August 28, 2009

Name the 8th Continent in the World

[Update Feb 17, 2017: A flurry of hits to this post today alerted me to the announcement of a new continent called Zealandia that was announced by scientists.  From
". . . if the reports are to be believed, scientists have discovered a new, eighth continent on earth and they are calling it Zealandia. Located to the east of Australia, a team of 11 geologists found 5 million square kilometre land mass which includes part of New Zealand and New Caledonia. At 4.9 million square kilometres, Zealandia is touted to be Earth’s smallest continent with Asia as the largest continent." 
There's also, apparently, a video game app called Eighth Continent.]

An editorial in the NY Times tells us:
Until recently, the earth had seven continents. To that number, humans have added an eighth — an amorphous, floating mass of waste plastic trapped in a gyre of currents in the north Pacific, between Hawaii and Japan. Researchers have estimated that this garbage patch may contain as much as 100 million tons of plastic debris and is perhaps twice the size of Texas, if not larger.
[Map from via Buffalo Readings]

Well, first try to name the other seven continents (five are on the map if you need help.) Go ahead, write them down. 30 seconds should suffice. This seems pretty basic, but I suspect not everyone can do this. (Well, maybe What Do I Know? readers can :) ) When I double checked at Wikipedia, one had been rechristened since I looked last, but we'll count the old name if that's what you had.

Then, come up with a name for this new continent that the editorial says is
  • trapping as many as a million seabirds every year
  • trapping some 100,000 marine mammals
  • breaking down faster than expected and apparently releasing contaminants, including potentially harmful styrene compounds not normally found in nature.
The trash island isn't a new story, it's the breaking down of the chemicals that brought it up again.

[Trash picture from Cheney's blog at thelaughingplanet. I'm not sure this is really the island.]

Think about this picture every time you're about to buy something packaged in plastic or even made of plastic. Do you need to buy it? If you must and have no non-plastic option, let the store manager and the manufacturer know you'd like an alternative.

Wild Alaska salmon anyone? This is all happening in the north Pacific. But there's enough for the rest of the world too, so don't worry. Bring on Pebble and we can have even more unique flavors in our fish.

So, what should this new continent be called? According to Buffalo Readings, it already had various names two years ago such as:
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  • North Pacific Gyre
  • Eastern Garbage Patch
  • Pacific Trash Vortex
But none of these seem to have the gravitas needed for a continent.

Record your nomination here so you can document that you thought of it first.


  1. I vote North Pacific Gyre. More scientific & it's always good for folks to learn a new word!

  2. This may be TMI: I was in hig school when I quit using tampons with plastic aplicators when a friend of vaccation to NY sent me picks of the Playtex tampon applicators on the beach and her little sister trying to pick one up, thinking that it was a whistle.

    I like North Pacific Trash Gyre.

  3. Clive Cussler wrote a book once upon a time called "Pacific Vortex". I'll bet he'd like to know there's a ready-made plot for a new book, in which his hero Dirk Pitt and the fictional organization NUMA battle a plastic garbage Sargasso Sea.

  4. I like the name Wasteland Gyre. Well its my own name I came up with, but I like it better then the other names.


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