Rubber Duck, Osaka 2009 (Florentijn Hofman, artist)

Nineteen years ago, in January, 1992, a 50,000 ton giant freighter struggled through 40-foot waves in heavy seas 500 miles south of the Aleutian Islands. Twelve shipping containers on top of the deck fell off the ship as it listed and fell to the ocean. One container that held 7,200 cardboard and plastic packages must have opened. Within a short time, the packages fell apart, releasing their contents, bathtub toys, to float on the seven seas. The 28,800 colorful beavers, frogs, turtles and (of course) rubber duckies have allowed oceanographers to gain new insights on the nature of ocean currents around the world and they have helped advance computer modeling of earth’s climate system. This article by Donovan Hohn for Harpers is well worth a read.