The existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first predicted by a paper published by NOAA in 1988. These researchers found that there were regions of concentrated floating plastic in the North Pacific Ocean and postulated that there could be other such regions in the globe where conditions would allow for similar oceanic trash formation. These regions were created by surrounding currents which formed somewhat stable waters where the garbage patches could form.
Although there are visible regions of the patch most of it is made up of very tiny plastic particles which are invisible to the naked eye.
Like djstam already stated, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted in 1988. However, the first person to see this phenomenon with his own eyes is Captain Charles Moore, who in 1997 was returning from a yacht race in Hawaii when he observed bits of plastic, including bottles and plastic caps, floating in the ocean. The patch that he saw was determined to be part of the Eastern Pacific Patch, which is sometimes lumped in with the Western Pacific Patch and considered together as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
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