A shocking "blanket of plastic" discovered off the coast of an idyllic Caribbean island stretches nearly 5 miles long and is choking wildlife
Sea of garbage
© Caroline Power Photography
An underwater photographer recently stumbled across a scene that shocked and "devastated" her - a blanket of plastic waste several miles wide floating off the coast of her previously pristine island home.

She discovered the "Great Caribbean Garbage Patch" about 15 miles from the tiny 12-mile-long island of Roatan, which has often been described as resembling "paradise."

"We were on a dive trip to a set of islands that don't quite break the ocean surface," photographer Caroline Power told The Telegraph.

"They are one of the most pristine dive sites in this part of the Caribbean."

The dive team passed through floating garbage for "nearly five miles,"
said Power, who's dedicated her career to increasing awareness of the "plastic problem."

Sea of garbage
© Caroline Power Photography
The thickest part of it was two miles long.
"Everywhere we looked, plastic bags of all shapes and sizes: chip bags, ziplocks, grocery, trash, snack bags, other packaging. Some were whole and the rest were just pieces."

At one point, her team reached a denser area "about two miles wide that had multiple trash lines that stretched from horizon to horizon."

"There was also a seemingly infinite number of plastic forks, spoons, drink bottles, and plates. There were broken soccer balls, toothbrushes, a tv, and so many shoes and flip flops," she said.

The garbage probably came from the Motagua Riverin Guatemala, washing into the sea during heavy rains, according to the Blue Planet Society, a non-profit working to end exploitation of the ocean.

The organization called the images "unbelievable:"

"We see a lot of shocking images of environmental destruction. This is right up there with the worst."

"There is a lack of infrastructure and education, so many people either burn trash or throw it into rivers," Power said.

"This is a developed nation (first world) problem as well," she added, pointing out that sending plastic to a landfill is not much more sophisticated.

"We need to improve waste management, environmental education and recycling facilities on a global scale."

Powers is asking anyone who wants to help to donate to the Roatan Marine Park, a non-profit working to protect Roatan's fragile coral reefs.

She's also asking us to consider our individual plastic consumption... to think twice before pulling out a ziplock bag, ordering caryout in styrofoam, tossing our plastic cutlery or leaving our reusable grocery bags at home.