The tropical islands that once inspired Charles Darwin's first paper and book is now piled under 414 million pieces of plastic.
Famed for their unspoilt Beauty, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in Australia were an important stop on the biologist's Beagle voyage in 1836.
The accumulated rubbish on the islands today are even ending up in remote islands nearby which shows just how dense the debris is, scientists say.
The natural islands of Cocos in Australia (pictured) that once inspired Charles Darwin's is now piled under 414 million pieces of plastic
Around 25 per cent of the rubbish collected in the latest study were classified as disposable plastics, including straws, bags, and toothbrushes.
The remote islands are positioned between Australia and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean and only two of its 27 coral islands are inhabited.
According to the paper that surveyed the rubbish in the Cocos island group, around 60 per cent is made up of small pieces of material known micro-debris that are 2–5 mm in length.
Darwin's visit to Cocos in 1836 provided him with the opportunity to look for support for his theory, and became central to his theory of coral reef development that led to his first paper and book on the subject.
He argued that volcanic islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean slowly allowed the formation of an living system that included ringed reefs, barrier reef, and a circular island.
Dr Jennifer Kavers who surveyed the islands in the latest study, said: 'Islands such as these are like canaries in a coal mine and it's increasingly urgent that we act on the warnings they are giving us.
'Our estimate of 414 million pieces weighing 238 tonnes on Cocos (Keeling) is conservative, as we only sampled down to a depth of four inches (10cm) and couldn't access some beaches that are known debris 'hotspots'.
'Unlike Henderson Island, where most identifiable debris was fishing-related, the plastic on Cocos (Keeling) was largely single-use consumer items such as bottle caps and straws, as well as a large number