27/2/2011 Independent Lost at sea: On the trail of Moby-Duck.The fate of a shipment of bath toys missing since 1992 has led to greater knowledge of the world’s oceans by Guy Adams
They are small, yellow and designed to endure nothing more stressful than a quick journey around a bathtub. But after almost 20 years lost at sea, a flotilla of plastic ducks has been hailed for revolutionising mankind’s knowledge of ocean science.
The humble toys are part of a shipment of 29,000 packaged ducks, frogs, turtles and beavers made in China for a US firm called First Years Inc. They were in a crate that fell off the deck of a container ship during a journey across the Pacific from Hong Kong in January 1992.
Since that moment, they have bobbed tens of thousands of miles. Some washed up on the shores of Hawaii and Alaska; others have been stuck in Arctic ice. A few crossed the site near Newfoundland where the Titanic sank, and at least one is believed to have been found on a beach in Scotland.
Now the creatures, nicknamed the “Friendly Floatees” by various broadcasters who have followed their progress over the years, have been immortalised in a book titled Moby-Duck. It not only chronicles their extraordinary odyssey, and what it has taught us about currents, but also lays bare a largely ignored threat to the marine environment: the vast numbers of containers that fall off the world’s cargo ships...