Ocean Horror Show: Dead Sea Birds With Bellies Full of Plastic Garbage

Sustainability, mass consumption, and what he calls “our culture of waste” have long been the backbone of Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan’s work.

For the past four years his creative energy has been focused on a remote group of islands near Hawaii, 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. Yet there, on Midway Atoll, he has discovered a nightmare scenario that powerfully illustrates just how ruinous man’s impact on nature can be: hundreds, thousands of dead albatross chicks choked to death on man’s detritus, mostly shiny bits of plastic picked up from the nearby Pacific Ocean by their parents, and fed to them mistakenly as food.

The most prominent piece of waste? Disposable cigarette lighters, which float near the surface of the ocean. Glittering in the sun, they are seductive targets. When they are fed to infant birds and swallowed, none of the plastic disintegrates and instead eventually fills tiny stomachs.