posted on Jul, 16 2003 @ 02:18 AM
Thousands of rubber ducks and other bath-time toys are due to become the unlikely allies of oceanographers 11 years after they were cast overboard
from a container ship en route from China to Seattle.
The floating flock of 29,000 ducks and their companions - turtles, beavers and frogs - is heading for the New England coast, bleached and battered
after a journey around the Arctic. Oceanographers say the trip has taught them valuable lessons about the ocean's currents.
The toys were cast adrift as the container ship carrying them encountered a storm in the Pacific Ocean. They floated along the Alaska coast and
reached the Bering Strait by 1995, and Iceland five years later. By 2001 they had floated to the area in the north Atlantic where the Titanic sank.
"Some kept going, some turned and headed to Europe," says Curtis Ebbesmeyer of Seattle, a retired oceanographer who's been tracking their progress.
"By now, hundreds should be dispersed along the New England coast."
Dr Ebbesmeyer has been able to track the toys that have washed ashore. He said they have been a useful tool in teaching oceanography, and have shed
light on the way surface currents behave.
They are also a sobering reminder that about 10,000 containers fall off ships each year.
Dr Ebbesmeyer has also tracked 3 million pieces of Lego, 34,000 hockey gloves; and 50,000 Nike trainers that were spilled in 1999.
Fred Felleman, of the environmental group Ocean Advocates, said container ships carry 95% of the world's goods and are stacked higher and wider than
"Some 30% have hazardous materials in them. They're not just spilling Nikes," he said.