Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rubber duckie, you're the one

"It's amazing what a duck can teach you."
-Curt Ebbesmeyer, oceanographer

I was gonna write about Bike to Work day, which was today, but got sidetracked. Maybe later. So what sidetracked me? I saw a neat little article about rubber duckies. I'm going to summarize, but there's more details here. Back in January 1992 a container ship crossing the Pacific Ocean somehow dumped a huge container full of rubber duckies (and froggies, and turtles, and beavers). Somewhere in the neighborhood of 29,000 of the little buggers. They floated around the northern Pacific for 10 months, caught in a big vortex, and finally started washing ashore in Alaska in late 1992.

Fast forward three years, and the ducks are showing up all over the Pacific. They have been spotted in Japan, Hawaii and the west coast of North America. Over the next five years, between 1995 and 2000 the ducks cross the Arctic and start reaching the North Atlantic. By 2007, the first British Invasion by a duck is reported. The details of this one are well documented, as in 2003 the company that manufactured the ducks began offering a reward of a $100 savings bond for each duck found and reported. Eric Carle (any parent will recognize this name) even wrote a book about it, called 10 Little Rubber Ducks.

It was a neat story, how oceanographers and NOAA and other folks used the duck spill to learn about the earth's oceans and show how all the oceans are truly interconnected in a real and tangible way. But then I read that the estimates of the Deepwater Horizon spill may be only half of what they originally thought. The flow rate may be as high 40,000 barrels (1.68 million gallons/6.36 million liters) per day. Significantly more than 29,000 ducks.

No comments: