It looks like a sequence of a post-apocalyptic film, but in reality it is the bottom of the Mediterranean. The images obtained by an underwater exploration robot have revealed an underwater landfill where you can find almost everything.
There are kitchen furniture, boats, toilet bowls, mattresses, tables, Christmas trees, clothes, wheels, bricks, dolls, boots, car mats, even a complete car, overturned and half-buried more than 500 meters deep. The sea urchins and fish use the garbage as a refuge and the crabs walk along the bottom dragging shreds of plastic.
It is the largest concentration of garbage ever recorded in deep waters anywhere in the world, according to the authors of a study published in Scientific Reports. The dump is at the bottom of the Strait of Messina, which separates the island of Sicily from the region of Calabria, in mainland Italy.
The concentration of waste is “amazing”, acknowledge the authors of the work, the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the University of Rome La Sapienza. If we extrapolate the maximum accumulation of garbage found in this area -13 objects in a straight line of 10 meters- to an area of one square kilometer, this would be “1,000 times greater than that observed in any submarine canyon in the world”, highlights the study.
The work warns of a type of contamination little studied, explains Martina Pierdomenico, CNR researcher and co-author of the study. “Coastal waters and beaches in developing countries may have more garbage than we have found, but these are more accessible environments.
On the other hand, our knowledge about garbage in the deep seabed is very limited due to the technical difficulties of studying it and the cost of marine campaigns, “he says. “As new areas have been explored, this problem has turned out to be much greater than we thought and now it is thought that the seabed hosts the largest accumulation of garbage on Earth,” highlights this postdoctoral researcher in marine geology.
Most of the waste has arrived from land. The submarine valley of Messina runs between two mountain ranges, one on the Sicilian side, the other on the Calabrian, which have a large gap and through which seasonal water currents flow. In summer they dry up and are used as illegal dumps. The occasional torrential rains carry the waste to the sea.
The submersible robot POLLUX III covered 6.4 kilometers of the submarine valley at depths between 240 and 580 meters. The greater the depth, the more waste there was. The operational limit of the vehicle is 600 meters, but researchers believe that the accumulation of garbage may be even greater in deeper waters. The most abundant waste is plastic (70%), followed by construction material, clothing and metal. Plastic bags and soft packaging are by far the most common waste (52% of the total).