Rambling: Rubber Duckies in Science

I suppose the most important feature of a rubber duck is its cuteness. Who wouldn’t like to have a rubber duck? If you have a rubber ducky, you’re never alone. They’re probably the main reason why some people still take baths, rather than to take showers that are quicker and conserve water.

Anyway, this article is about something I came across while I was browsing the Wikipedia. It is about Friendly Floatees and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a.k.a. the Pacific Trash Vortex). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is basically a patch in the Northern Pacific Ocean that is full of garbage. Stuff that falls off ships or garbage that is thrown into the sea, it all has to go somewhere, and so you have tons of plastic stuff collecting in the sea and killing sea life.

What does that have to do with the duckies? Well, there are so-called Friendly Floatees – 28,800 bath toys that look like yellow ducks, blue turtles, green frogs and red beavers – that fell off a boat once upon a time (January 1992).

Although each toy was mounted in a plastic housing attached to a backing card, subsequent tests showed that the cardboard quickly degraded in sea water allowing the Floatees to escape. Unlike many bath toys, Friendly Floatees have no holes in them so they do not take on water. (Wikipedia)

Ten months after they fell off the boat in the North Pacific Ocean, the first duckies showed up in Alaska. An oceanographer called Curtis Ebbesmeyer tracked the places where duckies showed up and used it to model ocean currents. He also consequently correctly predicted where more of the bath toys would show up. So the rubber duckies actually helped scientists in their research. Isn’t that sweet? At the same time, since only 1.4% of the ducks were recovered, I’m sure hundreds of them are hanging out in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch now.

Wikipedia actually says that two children’s books have been written about those ducks, but I have to say, I’m waiting for Pixar to make a movie about this. Of course I don’t know how to make a duck’s journey in the sea interesting, but then again, I wouldn’t know how to make a movie about a robot cleaning up the earth interesting, but Pixar did.

More about the garbage:
VBS.tv Sails Out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch : TreeHugger
Plastics, China, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Oh My!
Pacific Trash Vortex Could Signify Future of Our Oceans : TreeHugger

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