Date: 15th March 2022
The little yellow duck toy, fashioned from PVC material using a slush process, captures the hearts of many. Its hollow and lightweight design, sometimes equipped with a whistle, produces a delightful duck-like call when squeezed. Initially conceived as a children’s bath toy, its bright yellow color earned it the affectionate moniker, the yellow duckling.
Beyond its playful facade lies a fascinating history that continues to impact our lives today.
Story 1: Unraveling Ocean Currents with the Yellow Duck Fleet
Long before Franklin, navigators had observed ocean currents’ existence. In 1497, the Italian navigator Cabot noticed the flow of cold Arctic ocean waters along the eastern shore of Baffin Island and the Labrador Peninsula, warming the Atlantic Ocean. This ocean current came to be known as the “Labrador Cold Current.” In 1513, the Spanish fleet sailing to North America encountered a ship drifting north alone, sparking curiosity about a mysterious “dark river” in the ocean off the Florida peninsula.
Enter the little yellow ducks, which unexpectedly played a crucial role in aiding oceanographic research. Curtis Ebesmaier, an American marine scientist, found them to be more helpful than traditional drifting experiments. These duck toys willingly reported to local governments, allowing oceanographers to quickly gather data and analyze it. Made of durable plastic, the ducks proved resilient to damage, pollution, and water, facilitating long-term tracking research.
The “Duck Fleet’s” movements helped scientists comprehend a significant circulation cycle in the ocean, particularly between Japan, southeast Alaska, Kodiak, and the Aleutian Islands. Previously known to exist, the specific cycle period of about 3 years was unveiled thanks to the adorable yellow ducks.
From the bathtub to the sea: the fantasy rafting of little yellow ducks, Changchun Evening News
Story 2: The Odyssey of the Friendly Floatees
In 1992, a shipping container carrying 28,000 plastic bath toys, including rubber duckies, was accidentally lost at sea during its journey from Hong Kong to the United States. Little did anyone know that these playful companions would embark on an unprecedented journey across the world’s oceans, leaving a lasting impact on our understanding of ocean currents and plastic pollution.
Over the years, these yellow ducks have been spotted on various shores, from Hawaii, Alaska, South America, and Australia to the Pacific Northwest. Some even found themselves encased in Arctic ice. Affectionately named the “Friendly Floatees” by enthusiasts, these ducks gained a devoted following, with people from different corners of the world sharing their discoveries on websites dedicated to tracking their journeys.
Retired oceanographer and Floatee enthusiast Curtis Ebbesmeyer received numerous photographs of the ducks from different beaches worldwide. Tracking their movements proved invaluable in identifying the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex of currents spanning from Japan to the Aleutian Islands. The gyre, now known to be home to the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, highlighted the long-lasting presence of plastic debris in our oceans.
The enduring presence of the rubber ducks raised awareness about the global plastic pollution crisis, revealing that plastic trash can persist for years, if not decades. Containers filled with various items, from plastic bags to cigarettes, can meet the same fate, contributing to the growing problem of marine pollution.
Today, we recognize eleven major gyres across the world’s oceans, all potential reservoirs for accumulating trash. The story of the Friendly Floatees reminds us of the urgency to address plastic pollution as a global issue, emphasizing the need for sustainable practices to protect our oceans and marine life.
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