Let me tell you of the twenty-eight thousand rubber ducks. In 1992, a container ship lost the ducks overboard on their journey between Hong Kong and New York. The ducks were presumed lost, until they started turning up all around the world, from Scotland to Antarctica.
They can still be found on beaches. What is particularly interesting about these ducks is that they have been used to monitor ocean currents. Essentially the ocean is driven by a 1000 year cycle called the thermohaline (heat and salt) current or the 'great ocean conveyor'.
However, despite this knowledge, the ocean is still relatively unexplored and mapping the current was nigh-on impossible. Until the ducks. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a retired oceanographer, has collected data on where the ducks have ended up and has mapped them to reveal various features of the current systems.
The ducks have provided invaluable information. The North Pacific Gyre (NPG) was known to exist, however it took the ducks to map out the vortex, and how long its circulation took (3 years). This is particularly important as the NPG holds the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.
The Garbage Patch is essentially a swirling mass of plastic in the ocean, and it is not the only one. These garbage gyres are awful for the environment and are not likely to dissipate anytime soon, as plastic is notorious for its longevity. The ducks have highlighted just how massive it is and how plastic behaves in the gyre.
Of course, the ducks are bad for the environment and are part of a serious problem of container ships losing products in the ocean, where they become pollutants. I just thought this was a particularly interesting piece of geography and science and is such a creative way of using a few thousand bath toys.
So, if you find ducks on beaches (rubber ones), search up 'friendly floaties' and have your duck verified and logged, and then you would have contributed to an amazing bit of science! Sy. x