Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Toy Story

Behold, the mighty Lego:
On July 20, during my weekly collection at Bay View, I picked up this little guy and plopped him into the bag. No biggie, just a toy at the beach.

It was only a few days later, when sorting through the bag, that it struck me: Who brings Legos to the beach? They're way too easy to lose. They don't lock together right when sand gets in them. They're just not a beach toy.

It so happened that I was reading a neat little book on marine debris at the same time:
(Burns, Loree Griffin. Tracking Trash. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 2007.)

It tells the story of oceanographer & beachcomber Curtis Ebbesmeyer. In 1990, he heard of Nike sneakers washing up in Washington state. Turns out a cargo ship had hit a storm in the Pacific. Five shipping containers of the sneakers went overboard. Dr. Ebbesmeyer contacted beachcombers up and down the West Coast to find out when and where the shoes were washing up. Then he and his friend, oceanographer Jim Ingraham, started plugging the data into computer models to learn how currents move.

Their work has brought the science of ocean and wind currents leaps beyond where it once was. And 20 years later, they're still at it. Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham are tracking the flotsam of a dozen major container spills. One happened on February 13, 1997, 20 miles west of Land's End, Cornwall, England. The Tokio Express, en route from Rotterdam to New York, was struck by a rogue wave and lost 62 containers.

One of those containers held 4,756,940 brand new Legos.

Fast-forward to Bay View, July 20, 2010. The Lego I picked up came from high-tide line, as though washed in. It's an unlikely thing to bring to the beach. Did this little toy travel the North Atlantic for 13 years and several thousand miles? I don't know. In a bucket of still water it sinks; I have no idea what it would do in dynamic ocean water.

What I do know is that it was never used.

Under a 30x - 21mm jeweler's loupe it is pristine. Not one scratch, no wear, no sign that it was ever connected to another Lego, top or bottom, ever dragged through the sand. This Lego was lost before it ever touched a child's hand, and was found before it was ever worn down by beach & wave.

I've sent an e-mail in to Dr. Ebbesmeyer. He has the full cargo manifest, and will know if the style of piece I found was onboard. Being so generic, I'll probably never know exactly where it came from. But if it dropped locally, I'll eat my hat.

It's a big world, and a big ocean... until it isn't.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing isn't it. One of these days everyone will "get" how interconnected we all are....not just in lego terms!