Perhaps it is worth remembering the historic voyages of Thor Heyerdahl in his reed boat, known as the Ra expeditions. Thor Heyerdahl had more of a chance to take a closer look at the Atlantic Ocean while he was sailing in his fragile craft than anyone in a larger boat would normally have. He was shocked to discover that even in the middle of the Atlantic there was considerable pollution of oil!
The sea has always been thought of as a bottomless pit for all of the waste that man cared to throw into it. In the past, the processes of the sea have been able to cope, carting waste out and allowing it to decay with the aid of bacteria in the normal way. Now, however, the situation is different. From every country, millions of litres of sewage pour into the sea, some if it via the rivers, some of it treated and some of it not, but this is not the only way the sea is made dirty. If you where to go to the many beaches along the south coast of Britain hoping to lie on golden sands and swim in crystal clear waters, the chances are that you would soon find your clothes caked with sticky black tar-like material and you would be swimming in dirty brown water.
More recently another problem has arisen. The North Sea and Gulf Oil discoveries would have been made at a very opportune moment with fuel shortages and rising prices, but they do come without their price. More and more fishing boats have been finding their nets entangled in debris from drilling rigs, and the catches of fish are been affected.
Atomic energy seems at first sight to be a much cleaner way of producing the much needed energy we seek, but once again there is cost to the environment. Unfortunately, nuclear power stations produce materials which cannot be used further for power but which are radioactive, and which can remain so for hundreds of years. What is to be done with these waste products? One solution has been the bottomless sea again. The wastes are sealed in stainless still containers and dumped in the ocean. It has be suggested, however, that the containers will have corroded away long before the products are safe non-radioactive.
All the wastes from many factories are transported by the rivers into the sea. Detergents are used to disperse oil slicks, but may even cause more damage that the oil itself. Apart from the thousands of seabirds that die each year as a result of oiling, there may be other effects that we do not know of. It seems that the days of ‘sailing the ocean blue’ are over.