In the summer of 1997, Charles Moore set sail from Honolulu for California after competing in a trans-Pacific race. When he and his crew took a shortcut through the seldom-traversed North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a vast oceanic "desert" where winds are slack, Moore realized his ship was skimming through a plastic soup. He had stumbled upon the largest garbage dump on the planet, soon to be dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch--where plastic outweighs zooplankton, the ocean's food base, by six to one. Here, Moore recounts his ominous findings and unveils the secret life and hidden properties of plastics. Moore includes us in his maritime exploits as he collects samples throughout the oceans, and in his struggle to get the world's attention about the oceans' plight. He describes how plastics gradually emerged as a planetary menace--not just litter, but a potent threat to the ocean environment, and thus to life on earth.--From publisher description. A plastic soup -- Synthetic evolution -- Surfing the learning curve -- Swept away : the oceans as global dumpster -- The plastic sea around us -- The invention of throwaway living -- Harm -- The plastic age -- Gonzo science -- The message finds its medium -- Net losses -- Indigestible -- Bad chemistry -- Debris forensics -- Erasing our plastic footprint -- Refuse.