Friday, December 29, 2006

Photos that document the poisoning of paradise

Despite being thousands of miles from the nearest coastline, Laysan, one of the necklace of uninhabited north-western Hawaiian islands, is strewn with thousands of discarded bottles, computers, cigarette lighters, toys, golf balls and even an aeroplane wing.

Many of the 14 million seabirds which come here annually bring a deadly legacy for their chicks. Foraging at sea on their long journey, some birds mistake debris for food, swallow it and then regurgitate it for their offspring. The bottle tops and fishing line block the chicks' guts and they slowly starve to death.

Environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, eldest son of the legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, who first opened our eyes to the effect of pollution on the world's seas, discovered the desecration on a voyage around the archipelago.

'It is paradise and hell united, a catastrophe,' he said. 'This is one of the most isolated places in the world and the beaches are strewn with rubbish and debris. There is one layer on the surface, but when you scrape away a little sand, you find objects which have not been manufactured since 1960."

There are more photos here.

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