Rubber Duckies Hit the High Seas

Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science is a stunning portrayal of a how a scientist capitalized on castaway rubber duckies to uncover the nature of ocean circulation.

Throughout history shipping vessels have lost their goods through storms or shipwrecks. Not all these goods consist of treasure chests that sink to the bottom of the sea. Much of this cargo is lighter than water and floats until it comes ashore.

In 1992 a container ship encountered a storm and several containers were cast overboard. Upon hitting the water, they broke open and released thousands of yellow rubber duckies. It did not take long before some of these floating ducks washed ashore in Alaska.

Pacific-garbage-patch-map_2010_noaamdpThis unusual landing caught the attention of Curtis Ebbesmeyer and soon he began beach combing for rubber duckies along more of the coastline.

Then, as mysteriously as they appeared, they disappeared. It took about 2 years before they were sighted again.

The rubber ducky sightings and his earlier sightings of Nike shoes gave birth to the field of flotsametrics, where flotsam is any floating wreckage of a ship or cargo. Through his flotsam recovery project Ebbesmeyer was able to determine the nature of large-scale circulation patterns of the Pacific and the eventual discovery of the Eastern Garbage Patch, a vast area the size of Texas that consists of flotsam.

This book takes us from the beginning of his scientific adventure and pulls the reader into how the movement of masses of water can behave like plate tectonics, each moving in isolation from the other depending on their temperature and salinity.

This is a fascinating tale for any science aficionado who will appreciate how one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure to solve some big questions in marine science.

2 thoughts on “Rubber Duckies Hit the High Seas

  • April 23, 2016 at 9:09 am

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