About 50 miles up, no?

The Guardian tells us of Point Nemo, a place so remote that often enough the closest human beings are those on the International Space Station. I for one rather doubt that statistic, as Point Nemo is in the Great Pacific Gyre. And judging by the number of reports we get from Greenpeace and the like about the plastics floating about there I’m certain that there must be boatloads of hippies permanently in place. If, you know, we want to include hippies among a wider definition of humans.

The area is so far flung that the nearest humans are often those aboard the International Space Station. But even that hasn’t saved it from the scourge of microplastics

Well, yes, but that’s how circulatory systems work. My tootsies are quite a long way from my heart but until the diabetes fully kicks in they do get their blood.

What does that even mean? It’s the spot in the ocean farthest away from land in any direction – in effect, the middle of nowhere.

And where is that, exactly? Point Nemo is located at 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W, more than 1,600km away from three equidistant islands, including Easter Island.

That does sound a faff to get to. So much so that often the closest humans to Point Nemo are aboard the International Space Station.

And I think that’s a cute point to make. But then it’s not exactly unusual either. That’s it’s a dang way away from any land, agreed. But 50 miles from humans? Much of Antarctica would qualify, no? Many Southern Ocean islands? Chunks of Greenland? Siberia, Kamchatka? Having actually been to the place I’m sure there are cornfields in Iowa that feel like being 50 miles from the nearest human.

The point being that 50 miles from humans isn’t quite as rare as we might think.

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  1. The idea that 50miles from the nearest humans is unlikely works in the mainland UK, other places (say Canadian Rockies) not so much. You really do have to recalibrate your sense of distance when you leave UK, and your sense of what traffic means, doing a 2-day 2,400km roadtrip is fun when you don’t even see another vehicle for hours at a time

  2. Of course this factoid is meaningless. Is the place deserted? No, it was approached during a yacht race involving many crews, and shipping passes nearer than the Space Station. Other notorious falsehoods include a Gentle Giant yelling out “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” when actually reaching into a police cruiser to wrestle away a service weapon; and, more recently, Israeli police gunning down Palestinian “peaceful protestors.”

    Let’s get to the point of this propaganda: “This sad discovery shows the need for immediate international action on microplastics.” Evidence of humans was detected in a place the Guardian regards as sacred ground, and you the reader are supposed to feel “sad” (no, guilty) and write your MP. But tides and waves will continue to distribute residues, and the only news is that we are suddenly able to detect parts per quadrillion (“26 particles per cubic metre”): contamination so minute that it does not matter. An appeal to emotion for yet another international zero-tolerance campaign against modernity is bigger news than the fact that its facts are imprecise.