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Toys Science

Thousands of Rubber Ducks to Finally End Journey 210

Bert de Jong writes "The Daily Mail reports that thousands of rubber ducks who have traveled the seas of the world since 1992 are about to end their journey. After escaping out of a container fallen off a Chinese freight ship in a storm, scientists have been followed them on their fifteen year trek. This has turned out to be an invaluable source of information for studying ocean currents. Now it seems inevitable though that they will finally land on the shores of South-West England. '[Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer] correctly predicted what many thought was impossible - that thousands of them would end up washed into the Arctic ice near Alaska, and then move at a mile a day, frozen in the pack ice, around their very own North-West Passage to the Atlantic. It proved true years later and in 2003, the first Friendly Floatees were found, frozen and then thawed out, on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada. So precious to science are they that the US firm that made them is offering a £50 bounty for finding one.'"
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Thousands of Rubber Ducks to Finally End Journey

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  • I think I've just come up with a new money making scheme!

    1) Goto shop and purchase large amounts of rubber duckies
    2) Emerse them in water and ice for a few years and so
    3) Sell them to this company for 50 pounds each
    4) Profit!

    More seriously, maybe scientists should be getting more brightly coloured floating objects and chucking them in the sea at various points. What about red for Russia (two types, one for each coast), yellow for (no I won't go there...) and various other colours for other countries.

    A great way to learn more about ocean currents.

    But they would get into trouble with (some) environmentalists, maybe they need to just "accidentally" knock a few more crates overboard?
    • by Silver Sloth ( 770927 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:34AM (#19715023)

      But they would get into trouble with (some) environmentalists, maybe they need to just "accidentally" knock a few more crates overboard?
      Only the completely stupid ones. As far as I'm concerned you can pour as many chemically inert (well, Ok - relatively inert) plastic ducks as are needed into where ever they are required. It's the untreated sewage/industrial waste that I object to (and plastic bags because they look like jellyfish to whales and leatherback turtles).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Hence the "(some)" in that quote. Personally I agree with you, and I consider my self to be an environmentalist.

        Of course, oceanographers already do this sort of thing, though not on such a large scale (with so many objects I mean). And of course, they use modern technology, including satellites (See for example /drifters.html [] ).

        In that post I was aiming for a "funny" moderation, yet it seems that there are some unamused moderators who think it is redundant
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Untreated sewage (as long as it's just that, and doesn't contain non-biologically-generated crap...) is NOT bad for the environment.

        It may create local conditions that are unpleasant or even unhealthy for humans, but that's not the same as "bad for the environment". Lots of things that are perfectly natural are unpleasant or even downright deadly, and the presence of mass of fecal matter is no exception.

        Where do you think all the fish in the sea go to shit? Ever wonder how lions find that herd of millions
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:51AM (#19716599)
          Q. Where do you think all the fish in the sea go to shit?

          A. The water closet!

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          I'm not sure how this got modded 'insightful'

          Consider the difference between the amount of excretia generated by even the largest shoal of fish (or even Moby Dick) and the amount generated by a human population centre of any size, lets say a city of 100,000+, of which there are many around the coasts of the world.
          Add to that the fact that the shoal of fish, and especially Moby Dick, will be mobile and deposit the excretia over a significant area whereas sewage outlet pipes aren't particularly known for the
        • That depends on what you mean by "good for the environment". If "good for the environment" means "less impact from human beings", dumping human waste into the water isn't good for the environment. If "good for the environment" means "making the environment better inhabitable by human beings", dumping untreated human waste in the water isn't good for the environment. I'm sure someone (algae?) will benefit from having human waste dumped into the sea, though. "Good for the environment" is kind of a vague and m
      • Tell that to the animals that swallow and choke or back up their digestive tracks on chemically inert plastics. Innocently floating and brightly colored objects are a lure for aquatic life as any fisherman will tell you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 )
      The type of duck is quite specific, and it has the comapny name stamped on it. The thing about cheap plastic that that anyone can make is that there are literally thousands of variations, and the scientists are only interested in one breed. Different plastic, differnt sizes, different designs.
    • I think I've just come up with a new money making scheme!
      1) Goto shop

      Wow, old habits die hard. GOTO? How about:
      10 LET STEP1$ = "Go to shop and purchase large amounts of rubber duckies
      20 LET STEP2$ = "Emerse them in water and ice for a few years and so"
      30 LET STEP3$ = "Sell them to this company for 50 pounds each"
      40 GOTO 1000
      1000 REM Profit Routine
      1010 ...

  • by satyakam ( 671269 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:20AM (#19714955)
    Looks like a story tailor-made for a pixar movie. Sort of like a toy-story / finding-nemo mashup. -satyakam
  • by thhamm ( 764787 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:21AM (#19714961)
  • by tehSpork ( 1000190 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:23AM (#19714967)
    What a bunch of quacks...

    It's a pretty cool story though (shock, someone actually read TFA). I'm sure that we've learned a lot more about oceanic patterns from those plastic toys than we have from a lot of other (more expensive) methods employed in the past.
    • by RuBLed ( 995686 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:56AM (#19715107)
      22,000 rubber ducks = ~3 million US dollars

      Who wants to go to an Artic Expedition, we're mining ducks....
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by janestarz ( 822635 )
      TFA mainly teaches us that people won't report a bobbing float of the kind scientists use, but they do report hundreds of rubber duckies.
      Perhaps we should just teach scientists to disguise their floats as rubber ducks or equip the floats with GPS so they're not so reliant of sightings to chart the course their floats are taking.

      I foresee a whole new range of scientific balloons shaped like alien heads (with a limited edition of Gremlin-features), rubber duck floats...

      • by geobeck ( 924637 ) balloons shaped like alien heads...

        "Prepare for trouble []..."

        Well, you'd get a lot of kids involved in science.

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:24AM (#19714979)
    Thousands washing up at 50 pounds a pop for returning them?

    1. Train ticket to West Country
    2. Beach scavenge
    3. Profit!!

    This will be more fun than when the Napoli [] beached off Branscombe! Easier to sneak plastic ducks off the beach than BMW motorbikes....
  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:26AM (#19714993)
    and amazing that it got a reasonable and sensible write up in the Daily Mail. Perhaps now Mr. Blair has departed the Mail will be less of a feral beast (that's a UK reference for those of you in the rest of the world, don't worry about it) and more of a newspaper.

    However, given the way the climate change deniers have been trying to rubbish oceanographers and meteorologists because of their agreement on inconvenient data, the fact that this guy predicted something as counter intuitive as the ducks traveling through a North-west passage in pack ice should give pause for thought.

    When even people like Dyson try and rubbish climatologists (presumably because he wants unrestricted space travel and they are warning that this is impossible without doing severe damage to the Earth) this sort of thing reminds us of just (1) how much these people know and (2) what a lot they still want to learn, while their opponents seem to rely on soundbites and dodgy statistics rather than science.

    • by Don_dumb ( 927108 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:10AM (#19715169)
      Thanks for the post, I saw "the daily mail is reporting" and didn't even think of reading the article. It turned out to be quite interesting despite me spending the whole time reading it thinking - how are they going to make this a "Thousands of Chinese immigrants ready wash onto UK shores - Labour to blame" story
    • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:20AM (#19715223) Journal
      The most frightening thing about the Daily Mail (well, frightening to anybody with a social conscience) is that over half their online readership is from outside the UK. Talk about giving everybody the worst possible guide of everyday British life...
    • by Alioth ( 221270 )
      The Daily Wail, the newspaper of the permanently offended middle Englander change? I don't think so. It was just as awful prior to Blair.
    • Allegedly, Paul Dacre (Daily Mail editor) is a friend of Gordon Brown (new UK Prime Minister, for those not keeping up at the back). Not sure if that has any bearing on things or not:,,2115 307,00.html []

      However, as it's a story about a bunch of foreigners trying to get to the UK, it's standard Daily Mail fare, really. These ducks are different to us - they're not even the same species!
  • Welcome (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:28AM (#19715001)
    As a native of the South-West of England I for one welcome our new faded yellow Chinese rubber duck overlords.
    • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:48AM (#19715359)
      I can't help thinking that they can't be any worse than our local District Council. The ducks are mostly going in the same direction, and not spending all their time in in-fighting. What's more, they've spent the last 15 years doing useful scientific research instead of allowing unrestricted development in towns and blocking anything that might cause a rich NIMBY from London to have to look at a house belonging to someone else.

      Yes, replacing the Council with faded yellow Chinese rubber ducks might actually be an improvement.

      • I know exactly what you mean. Where the FUCK is Bristol's underground/light rail/tram system?

        This is meant to be the 21st century after all...
  • by Tim ( 686 ) <timr@alumni.was[ ... u ['hin' in gap]> on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:34AM (#19715019) Homepage
    Harper's did a long article on these in the January 2007 issue. If you're a subscriber, you can go to [] to read it.

    Also, if you're interested in this stuff, you might want to check out Ebbesmeyer's website and newsletter about beachcombing: []
  • Wanna bet? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:39AM (#19715033)
    Wanna bet there's some collector paying more than those 50 pounds on EBay? If I found one, that's where it would end up.
  • (From Sesame Street) Rubber Ducky, you're the one, You make bathtime lots of fun, Rubber Ducky, I'm awfully fond of you; Woo woo be doo Rubber Ducky, joy of joys, When I squeeze you, you make noise! Rubber Ducky, you're my very best friend, it's true! Doo doo doo doo, doo doo Every day when I Make my way to the tubby I find a little fella who's Cute and yellow and chubby Rub-a-dub-a-dubby! Rubber Ducky, you're so fine And I'm lucky that you're mine Rubber ducky, I'm awfully fond of you. Every day wh
  • Ebb (Score:3, Interesting)

    by caluml ( 551744 ) <> on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:18AM (#19715217) Homepage
    Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer - that's quite a good name for someone who works with the sea.
    • Pfff. He's barely trying. In the early nineties, the Detroit Lions had a quarterback called Chuck Long. Now that's doing it right. Oh, and Richard Payne from my school, who had a Saturday job on the pharmacy counter at the local branch of Boots. Every time he was about to finish his break, some wag or another would tannoy "would Dick Payne please come to the pharmacy counter"...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sqldr ( 838964 )
      Whereas Otis Spunkmeyer is probably the worst name for someone who makes food..
  • I have a Chinese mfg make a couple thou of them. pre-bleached. Stamped "Teh First Years"

    You be seeing them on eBay soon, though, since they were also washed overboard it's not entirely clear where I be pickin them up yet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Linker3000 ( 626634 )
      Looking forward to the iDuck combined mobile phone and ducky on eBay - no-doubt someone would buy it.
  • Old News (Score:4, Informative)

    by Suit ( 106935 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:45AM (#19715341)
    Nike got there first with shoes that had serial numbers to allow tracking across the globe.

    In late May of 1990, the container vessel Hansa Carrier encountered a severe storm in the north Pacific Ocean (~48N, 161W) on its passage from Korea to the United States. During the storm, a large wave washed twenty-one shipping containers overboard. Five of these 20-metre containers held a shipment of approximately 80,000 Nike shoes ranging from children's shoes to large hiking boots. It has been estimated that four of the five containers opened into the stormy waters, releasing over 60,000 shoes into the north Pacific Ocean.
  • Convoy (Score:5, Funny)

    by asifyoucare ( 302582 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @07:10AM (#19715449)
    Rubber Duck says "looks like we got ourselves a convoy".

    Scary thing was "Convoy" had a B-side. Imagine how bad that must've been.

  • Sounds like quackery to me.
  • Obviously, those ducks were hit hard by sea storms etc. in the past. So maybe some got deformed and their shadow resembles Elvis! Imagine the tons of money you could get in Ebay with such a duck!
  • by Agilus ( 471376 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:19AM (#19716267) Homepage
    You were a great band, Journey! Who could have known that you would be mobbed and killed by thousands of rubber ducks!?!? What did you do to deserve this fate?!?
    • by Jonathan ( 5011 )
      After the awful 2600 game [], they deserve it! And track down Steve Perry in his retirement, little ducks! No fair escaping punishment by getting replaced by a sound-alike!
  • Next up: Lava Ducks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chiph ( 523845 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:26AM (#19716339)
    Imagine if you could create Asbestos Ducks that you'd drop into a subduction zone to trace the earth's magma currents.

    Of course, you'd have to wait a bit longer than 4 years for them to pop up at their destination...

    Chip H.
    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      It's actually the best way to get rid of unwanted radioactive waste. Won't come out until the next full geological age. Of course the greens would go apeshit over the idea of dumping containers of long life radionucleotides into the sea at some precise location (some drilling would make it safer). My, why do you ask, yes I work in nuclear physics ! It's either this or keep the containers downtown in full view of your government heads to motivate them into checking regularly for leaks.
  • by ehicks727 ( 781110 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:59AM (#19716697)
    You'd think you could spot tens of thousands of brightly colored rubber ducks on Google Earth/Maps, ya think? Anyone have links?
  • by Larry Lightbulb ( 781175 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @11:10AM (#19717663)
    There was a radio documentary about them in 2006 - my page about the programme, _of_the_yellow_ducks.html/ [], has a link to the "Listen Again" where you may be able to hear it (the BBC sometimes keeps the old factual programmes available).
  • I don't understand. If this really has "turned out to be an invaluable source of information for studying ocean currents" then why hasn't anybody done this before?
  • So, the Roswell aliens crashed on our little planet to study what caused its inhabitants to throw little rubber ducks in their world ocean?
  • The photo shows a duck, a turtle, a frog and a fourth creature that might be a beaver or an otter. I wonder if there is any difference in the distribution of where they ended up, and what that might mean. Perhaps a difference in wind drag and water drag, or how fast the packaging disintegrated.
  • This is a subtle way the Chinese are using to undermine Canadian sovereignty by going through the Northwest Passage without our permission!

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein