The 10th of January of 1992, during a fierce storm, nearly 29,000 bath toys, including bright yellow rubber ducks, are spilled from a container cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean. The toys, nicknamed Friendly Floatees, overboard on their way from Japan to the United States. Many of them have since washed up on the shores of Hawaii, Alaska, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest. Others have been found frozen in Arctic ice and made their way to Newfoundland and Scotland. These intrepid ducks seems to have travel all over the world. It is also believed that over 2,000 ducks are still caught up in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. The Gyre is a vortex of water that stretches between Japan and southeast Alaska. It is a vast churning area of water that holds anything that comes into it in a whirlpool for years if not forever. That means that there are probably thousands of rubber yellow ducks churning around and around in a whirlpool of water for over 20 years.
The adventure of these ducks helped understanding the movement of the oceans. Today it is known that there are 11 major gyres across the world’s oceans, and all of them are potential vestibules for the world’s trash, which is a big concern for the global pollution issue.
At the end of the story it seems that the adventurous ducks were quite tenacious: “the ones washing up in Alaska after 19 years are still in pretty good shape,” said Ebbesmeyer Curtis, an oceanographer who studied the Floatees.
Some other interesting facts:
- This story inspired a children’s book , “10 Little Rubber Ducks” by Eric Carle.
- Another book written by oceanographic scientist Ebbesmeyer Curtis: “FLOTSAMETRICS AND THE FLOATING WORLD: How One Man’s Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science”.
- Last, but not least, the third book about the journey of the ducks by Donovan Hohn, “Moby-Duck”.
- The rubber ducks were used for NASA’s Glacier Research.