By Amanda Marasco

March 5th, 2018

Deep dive into the ocean, swim with dolphins and learn about the island of rubbish... 

Welcome to this week’s Mad About Science newsletter – another instalment of news, activities, history, and fun facts to stimulate discussion and inspire learning.   We have another competition with awesome prizes too! (Don’t forget that entries for our last two newsletter competitions end this Friday, so make sure you’ve got your entries in.)

This week we are strapping on our goggles and jumping into that wonderful stuff that covers most of our planet – water. We are going consider how marine creatures are affected by pollution and learn how scientists and innovators are developing solutions to the problem of rubbish in our seas. We will do some underwater exploration with the legendary Jacques Costeau and make some waterproof sand – just because it’s cool!

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Island made of Rubbish

There is a new island in the Pacific Ocean: and its made of rubbish!

 The clear blue waters of the North Pacific Ocean are being choked by a giant floating island of rubbish. The shocking garbage dump dubbed the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' is located between the continents of North America and Asia, and is yet another piece of bad news in the fight against plastic pollution in our oceans.

It is estimated to cover an area of more than 1 million square kilometres, that's an area as big as South Australia!

It takes between 1 and 6 years for a piece of rubbish to be carried by ocean currents from the coast of North America or Asia to join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (Because of the circular movement of ocean currents, once it has reached this area, it doesn’t move much further.

It is estimated that 80% of the garbage comes from land, and 20% from ships at sea. The vast majority of the rubbish is plastic. The plastic does not break down chemically, however it does break down physically, into smaller and smaller pieces, known as ‘microplastics’. It is however, still plastic, and now in a size where it can be eaten by all manner of aquatic animals, such as birds, turtles, or fish. Larger animals may eat smaller animals that have eaten plastic – and so it moves through the food chain, potentially ending up on your dinner plate, and causing sickness and death to many animals along the way.

Fortunately, one organisation is hard at work on a solution to this serious problem. The Ocean Clean Up was founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Booyan Slat at just 18 years of age. Now, seventy scientists, researchers and engineers are busy developing the technology and the plans to begin the enormous task of removing thousands of tonnes of rubbish from our oceans. They hope to get started later this year.

Find out more about The Ocean Clean Up

Aussie Surfers Invent Seabin

Aussie surfers invent a clever ‘Seabin’

‘If we can have rubbish bins on land, why not have them in the ocean?’

This was the question that Australian surfers and ocean lovers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinksi asked themselves a few years ago. So passionate about their idea, the forward-thinking surfers quit their jobs and developed the ‘Seabin’.

The Seabin looks a lot like a ‘land’ bin, but it is anchored in a port, marina, river, lake or any other calm water location. The opening of the Seabin sits level with the top of the water. A pump inside sucks water down into the bin, where a big filter (that looks a lot like a bin liner) traps rubbish and lets the water pass through.

Whilst caring intensley about their product, Andrew and Pete are also passionate in their belief that education is a vital part of their mission to clean up and preserve the world’s oceans. Every person who understands the importance of disposing of rubbish properly is one less ‘source’ of marine pollution.

Find out more about the Seabin

Wonderful Water Competition

Wonderful Water Competition

This week’s question is a simple one, although it might require a little bit of research.

What percentage of the Earth’s surface is covered by water?

Send us your answer (to the nearest whole number) to be in the running for a fab prize pack from Mad About Science, including: a salt water fuel cell car or a salt water spider bot (please tell us which one you’d like in your entry), a pack of growing beads  - just add water and watch them grow, and a pack of super water absorber  - otherwise known as ‘nappy powder’.

Email entries to, or send them via snail mail to Competitions, Mad About Science, 1A/981 Mountain Hwy, Boronia, Vic, 3135. Include your full name, age, email and postal address.  Entries must be received by Friday March 16, 2018. Click here for a full list of competition terms and conditions.


‘There is no such thing as “away”. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.’ – Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, and writer of the film ‘The Story of Stuff’.

The Original Aquaman

The original ‘Aquaman’ – Jacques Cousteau (1910 – 1997)

Legendary Frenchman Jacques Cousteau crammed a lot of activity into his 87 years. He was a sailor in the French Navy, a record-setting free diver, co-inventor of the air regulator in scuba equipment, and even had brief stints as an international spy and an underwater archaeologist! However, it is his ground breaking and Oscar-winning underwater film making for which he is best known. In 1956 his documentary The Silent World was released. For the vast majority of audiences, this was their first glimpse of what the underwater world looked like, and many were enraptured with what they saw.

The demand for scuba equipment (with Jacque’s regulator) went up, and people took to the water to experience the marine environment firsthand. Jacques went on to win two more Oscars for his underwater film making. He also made a TV series, ‘The Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau’, which ran for 8 years in the 1960s and 70s, inspiring a new generation of divers to explore the vast, diverse world that lies underwater.

The Legacy of Jacques Cousteau

When is a whale not a whale

Q: When is a whale not a whale?

A: When it’s a dolphin!

Did you know that those big, black and white marine mammals we call ‘Killer Whales’ are not really whales but the largest members of the Dolphin family? Their scientific name is Orcinus Orca, which is why the other name used for them is ‘Orca’. As for the ‘killer’ part, although Orcas are apex predators (there is no animal that preys on them), they rarely attack humans. They do work together however, to hunt in packs to bring down animals such as whales and sharks.


Make your own lava lamp

Make your own Lava Lamp

You may have heard that oil and water don’t mix. But do you know why?

It comes down to the differences in the molecules of oil and water. Water molecules are 'polar' and have a slight electrical charge. Oil molecules are ‘non-polar’ and do not have a charge. Polar and non-polar substances do not mix together.

This activity uses this principle (and a bit of chemisty) to create a very groovy lava lamp!

Waterproof Sand

Waterproof Sand!

You only need two ingredients to make this very cool stuff! Sand and waterproofing spary. 

Essentially, we ‘waterproof’ the sand with the same type of substance that we might use to waterproof a jacket or a tent.

The sand becomes ‘hydrophobic’, or ‘water-hating’, and repels the water instead of mixing with it.  

You can make some very interesting underwater structures after creating waterproof sand. 

Make Waterproof sand...

More Free Science Activities

Featured Workshop - Water and the Environment

Featured Workshop - ‘Water and the Environment’

Water is essential to life, and is our most precious resource. We use it to drink, for cooking, washing and hygiene, recreation, industry and agriculture. During this workshop students develop an understanding and appreciation of the importance and special properties of water. For Foundation through to Year 4 students.

Visit your local aquarium

Get on down to your nearest Aquarium!

If you have never visited an Aquarium or Oceanarium, or its been a long time since your last visit, here is a list of all of the Aquariums and Oceanariums in Australia. Start planning your next visit!