The Epic Marine Journey of Rubber Duckies ……. After Ernie of the Sesame Street christened his beloved bath companion “rubber duckie” through a song, the whole world followed suit. We call them rubber duckies: the cute yellow squishables we so love to set sail on the bath. Commonly dismissed as mere toys for kids or simple gift items and giveaways, little do we know that some of these little bath buddies have the world’s waters in them, shedding light on how ocean currents work.
One shipment of Friendly Floatees, plastic bath toys manufactured by Chinese companies for The First Years Inc., began a fateful odyssey when a shipment of 28,800 red beavers, green frogs, blue turtles, and yellow ducks washed overboard a container ship destined for Tacoma, Washington from Hong Kong in January 1992. The floatees, which were designed specifically to not hold water, started on their way, bobbing tens and thousands of miles.
The first floatees washed up ashore on 16 November 1992 and the ensuing days till August 1993 on the coast of Alaska (more than 3,000 kilometers from their point of embarkation!). These landfalls were recorded by oceanographers, and plugged into models of the oceans’ currents to successfully predict the next batch of floatees, which floated up in Tacoma in 1996. The duckies have since turned up in distant places long after their departure: the toys have been found in Hawaiian shores, in Southern Africa, and in Australia. Some of them were even found above the Titanic’s final resting place (27,000 kilometers away!), as well as near the UK, after spending years in the freezing Arctic.
These duckies are but one of the likely thousands of shipments that are lost at sea each year. These lost shipments, aside from causing economic loss to the shipping companies and those who were supposed to receive them, pollute the oceans; potentially harming ocean creatures who may accidentally consume them or be ensnared in them. The floatees serve as cute representatives to bring the lost flotsam into the awareness of the people. That they still wash up more than a decade after their loss highlights how long the effects of each shipment loss has on the marine environment.
Aside from stressing the harm of pollution, duckies also help scientists map out the currents of the world. By tracking their passage through the oceans, scientists, such as oceanographers, can make hypotheses on how the currents of the oceans, such as the large circulating currents known as “gyres,” flow. They can then test these hypotheses by predicting when and where future flotsam might end up. These models of the oceans’ currents, aside from being intrinsically interesting to scientists, can help in figuring out the location of future lost shipments (which may then be recovered or cleaned up). And by monitoring the changes in these models, scientists can also measure the effects of climate change on the currents. These changes are important to investigate because of the dependence of the different marine species on them, as well as their effect on global weather patterns (such as the El Niño and La Niña).
So next time you see a rubber ducky, you know it contributed a huge part to our oceanography.
Thank you www.branders.com .
P.S. ….. I am in no way, being compensated for this blog post from www.branders.com … just wanted to share with my fabulous readers the rubber duckie story !