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CNN, November 3, 2009

Plight of the albatrosses: Choking on plastic waste

Artist Chris Jordan photographed albatross remains on Midway Atoll in the Pacific.

Midway Atoll, a small stretch of sand and coral in the middle of the north Pacific, is home to one of the world's largest populations of Laysan albatrosses.

Until 1993, U.S. Navy aircraft thundered down the runway of the military base on the island, but now ocean going birds nest and embark on their own epic cross-ocean journeys from the overgrown landing strip.

Yet the impact of humans and increasing consumer waste from thousands of miles away continues to have a direct effect on the island's wildlife, as photographic artist Chris Jordan discovered when he traveled there in September.

The American photographed the remains of albatross chicks that had died from consuming plastic waste found in the surrounding oceans. According to the artist, not a single piece of plastic in any of the photographs was moved, placed or altered in any way.

The nesting babies had been fed the plastic by their parents, who collected what looked to them like food to bring back to their young.

From cigarette lighters to bottle caps, the plastic is found in what is now known as the great Pacific garbage patch that stretches across thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Fed a diet of human trash, it is thought that every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity and choking.

Jordan has examined the environmental effects of consumer society in his previous work. Pieces in his "Running the Numbers" exhibition, use digitally manipulated drinks cans and plastic waste from the Pacific gyre, respectively, to create copies of Hokusai's "Behind the Great Wave off Kanagawa" and Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte".

© 2009 Cable News Network. Photographs © Chris Jordan.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton