Date: Fri, 23 Feb 96 23:06:38 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Reef Madness
[Where's Godzilla when you need him? -psl]
Forwarded-by: Daniel Steinberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Robin McDonald
Sydney, Australia--Oceanographic scientists say they have discovered a vast,
floating "reef" of the world's disposed condoms in the middle of the South
Pacific, about halfway between Tahiti and Antarctica. The phenomenal mass
is almost two miles long, an eighth of a mile wide, and in places up to 60
feet deep, the oceanographers say.
Mason Froule, Australian marine biologist at his country's Oceanographic
Laboratory Outpost on Macquarie Island, South Pacific, said the bizarre
accumulation is explained by a scientific term called "like aggregation"--
that is, the massing of similar objects over short or longer periods of time
due to wind or ocean currents, magnetic fields, buoyancy and other
"It's fairly common in the world's oceans," he said: natural events such
as red tides, for example, are instances of "like aggregation."
"People with pets that shed lots of hair can see it in their own homes,"
Froule added. "The dog sheds everywhere in the room, but after falling out,
the fur soon collects in a few clumps and masses."
Froule said ocean "reefs" of styrofoam and detergent residues have been
observed in the South Pacific and elsewhere for many years, but they are
usually broken up by storms before they become large or hazardous.
He believes the huge concentration of condoms, not reported before, is more
resilient than other aggregating" ocean materials, and may have been
developing for decades.
Froule said parts of the newly discovered reef are matted together so
densely that "you could almost land a plane on it."
"I suppose it would be funny if it didn't pose the hazard it does to marine
life and navigation," Froule stated.
"I pity any freighter, submarine, or dolphin, for that matter, that might
run into it."
The biologist said he and his Australian scientific colleagues will have
the reef mapped by satellite and monitored from now on to see if it expands,
breaks up, or drifts from its current location (reported at 63 degrees
latitude and 154 degrees longitude).
Froule said there would not be much point in trying to break up the pulpy
mass with explosives or other devices. "It seems pretty indestructible,"
The world's industrialized nations are estimated to consume and dispose of
nearly 300 million condoms a year. Industry analysts say about a third of
the discards become waterborne.
© 1996 Peter Langston