A thousand miles off the California coast is a Texas-sized collection of trash is swirling.
"This area that's really in the middle of nowhere in this huge patch between California and Hawaii has this indelible sign of human use and abuse," said Miriam Goldstein with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - millions of broken down plastic bottles and other trash have accumulated here. Now, scientists with Project Kaisei and Scripps Institution of Oceanography have launched a 20 day, million dollar mission aboard the New Horizon to examine the impact this floating landfill has on the ecosystem.
"It's a pretty big threat. We don't know how physically big it is. We don't know how deep it is and that's part of the reason we're doing this," continued Douglas Woodring with Project Kaisei.
Researchers believe the plastic vortex is killing everything from fish to birds. The goal of their voyage: to see if this ocean mess can be cleaned up.
"We think that the first step in order to even talk about cleaning it up is to understand the nature of the problem, how big it is, where is it?" noted Goldstein. "There's just a huge amount of information I can gain from this."
Patrick Henry High School teacher, Laura Dickens is one of 30 scientists on board. She's hoping to turn this trip into curriculum for kids interested in earth science.
"I'll package it in a way that a teacher can use it in their classroom so not only what they discover with their specific research but also the career of earth science, physics and oceanography," said Dickens.