Curious Case of Rubber Ducks! 29,000 Bath Toys Lost at Sea Are Helping Scientists Understand Ocean Current!
Rubber Ducks (Photo Credits: Pixabay)

A case of loss at one point in time has resulted in a gain in understanding our mighty oceans. An interesting case of how rubber ducks only meant for being children's bath toys was lost in the sea, has been aiding scientists in learning the ocean current, is just amazing! The tragedy is today the source of information on many matters relating to the world underwater.

The incident happened on January 10 1992, when a ship en route from China to Seattle got caught in a storm tumbling down its containers into the sea. Among the cargo lost in the sea was a consignment of 29,000 bath toys or which most were rubber ducks. They were made in China for a firm in the United States, The First Years Inc. Soon later, these toys began to be washed ashore in different parts of the world. World Oceans Day 2019: A Peep Into the World Below Water - Interesting Facts And Threat The Marine Life is Facing.

Bath toys (Photo Credits: Pixabay)

The toys which were arranged in groups of four included yellow ducks, red otter green frogs and blue turtle. With no holes to hold water, they continue to swim across continents and have been dubbed as 'Friendly Floatees' by researchers. And over the years, it has helped researchers understand the oceanic current in a better way.  5 Biggest Threats to Our Oceans and Marine Life!

Movement of Friendly Floatees (Photo Credits: Wikimedia)

It was oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer who looked into the curious case of rubber ducks being washed ashore at different beaches. The rubber ducks first began to appear in November 1992 along the Alaskan Coast, more than 3,000 kms away from its point of origin. The years following the number of these floatees visiting beaches increased manifold. In a year, around 400 toys washed up along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Alaska.

Ebbesmeyer was then quoted as saying, "We're getting reports of ducks being washed up on America's eastern seaboard. It is now inevitable that they will get caught up in the Atlantic currents and will turn up on English beaches. Cornwall and the South-West will probably get the first wave of them." Do You Consume a Credit Card's Worth of Plastic Every Week?

Children's toys (Photo Credits: Pixabay)

To understand the drifting of these floatees, researcher Jim Ingraham created a computer model which uses air pressure measurement to calculate the direction and speed of ocean wind currents. The incident led to a children's book called 'Ten Rubber Ducks' by author Eric Carle about the ducks and their travels. The incident also inspired various other books, poems, comics and animated series. The toys themselves became popular and were sold for USD 1,000 each.

Using the model, oceanographers predicted the arrival of Friendly Floatees in Washington state in 1996 and it did! The remaining toys floated to Japan and the rest back to Alaska. They then swam to the Baerin Strait and got trapped in the Arctic ice. Theorists then said that it would take six years for the toys to move across the Pole and get back into the ocean. And 15 years later, some floatees were found in the south-western shores of the UK which is more than 27,000 km away from the Arctic. The rubber ducks continue to drift at the sea, say, scientists. The rubber ducks became so popular that the US firm that made offered £50 bounty (more than Rs 4,000) which they raised in 2003 for finding one of them. How to Reduce Plastic Pollution? 6 Simple Lifestyle Changes You Can Adopt For a Greener Planet!

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This study helped ocean scientists gather data otherwise difficult to acquire. Generally, such data is gathered from the release of drift bottles, however, their recovery rate is about two percent. They have also been found in South America, Australia, Pacific Northwest, Scotland and even Newfoundland.

The 'Friendly Floatees' although lets about the marine world, it's an example of the ways in which our oceans are getting polluted. High demand for imported goods owing to a quick change in fashion in countries around the world is among reasons there are so many freighters in the ocean. While the ships getting lost in the ocean has reduced significantly in recent years, the ocean is carrying tonnes of goods which naturally doesn't belong to it affecting its sanity.