Remembering Moby Duck

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There is something truly mystical about children’s toys taking on a life of their own. The makers of the Toy Story franchise would agree that playthings with personalities win hearts and inspire twinkles in the eyes of kids all over the world.

Every now and then, magical things happen in real life too! And so follows the true tale of the little yellow ducks that went for a very long swim.

Three (or more) Little Ducks

In 1992, intrepid weather in the North Pacific Ocean caused 28,000 3-inch plastic bathtoys to begin a journey that would last over 20 years. Only a quarter of the toys that spilled off the deck of the Evergreen Ever Laurel cargo ship were actually yellow ducks (lost in the creating of the myths were the blue turtles, green frogs, and red beavers). Everyone recalls the beloved explorer ducklings, which have journeyed as far as Japan and Alaska, and even crossed the Arctic circle. The charismatic duckies have been christened with the name, the “Friendly Floatees,” by devoted followers (duck-coloured Kool-Aid, what?)

Author Donovan Hohn followed the quackish travels of the faded-yellow flotsam and jetsam (now fetching $1000 per duck), in the book Moby Duck.

Ugly Duckling Uncovered

Acutely, the book follows the simple journey of the ducks but highlights the great environmental seriousness of plastic pollution. The ducks have enabled oceanographers to track the triennial flows of currents in the whirlpooling North Pacific Gyre; the body of water between Japan and south-east Alaska. The duckies go around in the same cycle, doing the same thing day after day, year after year…until they break free. The jailbreak catalyst may be a pod of interrupting whales or a collision with a ship or other debris, and the duckies are then free to beach themselves wherever they so please.

In the author’s words, the book was ‘an account more detailed and more whimsical’ than he had imagined. He even missed the birth of his first child. Donovan describes his quest as uncovering ‘the oceanic magnitude of your own ignorance’. For those interested in doing the same (well, maybe not missing the birth of your own child. I’m referring to the opportunity to a learn a little more about the project), check out his short vimeo here:

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