What 29,000 Lost Toys Have Told Us About Our Oceans? Our oceans sure look pretty from afar, but if you take a closer look, you’ll find plenty of gross stuff lurking around. There are as many as 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of ocean, threatening the health of our seas, especially the marine wildlife inhabiting them.
But there is at least one good thing scientists can get from all this junk: a better understanding of the behavior of complicated ocean currents, which are shaped by a number of disparate forces and affect, among other things, the climate and the distribution of Earth’s life forms. By studying the movement of ocean flotsam—in particular, the movement of 29,000 bathtub toys that were lost from a cargo ship in 1992—retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has uncovered quite a bit about our ocean’s currents and the places they carry litter.
Join WIRED Science host Ziya Tong as she and Ebbesmeyer explore the mysteries of surface currents and discover just how much bathtub toys and messages-in- bottles can tell us about our beloved oceans. Learn, too, about a section of the ocean appropriately called the “Great Garbage Patch” and about a piece of software called OSCURS that can determine, from just its starting point and date, exactly where a lost piece of plastic will end up years later.