The oceans are among the most mysterious and amazing places left on the planet that scientists still have yet to fully explore. Unfortunately, they suffer from a variety of different threats every year, with one of the biggest being the dumping of plastic and other pollutants into the water. A lot of this happens when cargo shipping containers are lost at sea during bad weather and in one particular instance over 28,000 Friendly Floatees duck toys were plunged into the Pacific Ocean.
The story of these rubber duckies lost at sea garnered international attention when the plastic toys began appearing on shores all around the world. They were recently brought back to attention in the last few years with the release of Donovan Hohn’s book Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea. It delves into the tale of these rubber ducks lost in ocean currents but also explains how they were able to travel around the world and the role they played in helping researchers understand how the Earth’s seas behave.
The actual accident occurred in 1992, when a cargo ship that was traveling from China to Seattle encountered bad weather. One of the shipping containers that was lost and fell into the water was destined for First Years Inc., a toy company in the United States, and was home to 28,000 plastic ducks. The incident became famous when the ducks began appearing in various parts of the world and the toys quickly acquired the nickname “Friendly Floatees” thanks to their colorful and cute appearance.
Although the ducks fell into the sea in the North Pacific, they were able to travel vast distances all around the world. Some showed up in the Pacific region as you might expect, washing up on shores in Hawaii and other nearby locations. However, they were also able to reach places even further away. Making their way past Newfoundland and into the Atlantic Ocean, they were able to pass through arctic ice, where many became trapped, and eventually land in the United Kingdom some 15 years after they first entered the water.
While the story of the ducks became well known due to the bizarre nature of the events, they also played an important scientific role. Oceanographers have used their journeys around the world’s oceans to help plot the different currents and gyres that exist. By being able to track them precisely from their starting point, scientists were able to discover how big these ocean currents are and exactly how long they take to complete a circuit. This not only helps them understand exactly how the water flows around the planet but should also help them to predict how climate change will affect the oceans and marine life.
Author Donovan Hohn had no real intention of writing the book Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea when he first began researching the incident. However, his curiosity soon got the better of him when he realized he was becoming obsessed with the story and wanted to know exactly how it had happened. This meant quitting his full-time job and leaving his wife behind as he travelled around the world with various different groups on an assortment of boats as he set out to discover the story behind the floating ducks.