Okay, the next time you are on an ocean cruise, don’t bother tossing your pop can overboard. It will likely just bounce back.
This is because we apparently have entire flotillas of junk and garbage sloshing about in the seven seas. Not just the usual sunken ship and message-in-a-bottle stuff either — I’m talking about entire cargo holds full of muck.
For example, consider an incident on February 13, 1997 where a “rogue wave” (so called, I guess, because waves have never been known to heave ships around) caught a freighter named the Tokio Express off guard. The ship rolled 60 degrees one way and 40 degrees the other. Freighter captains must not believe in giant seat belts, because this chucked about 62 cargo containers overboard. One of them contained some 4,756,940 Lego pieces.
Yep, you heard me. More than 4 million bits went into the drink from just one of those containers.
I don’t know about you, but I have had the misfortune of stepping on a piece of Lego in bare feet. I remember the incident clearly, mainly because I can still see the @#$%! Lego imprint on my foot. I can only imagine what some sea creatures must say under the same circumstances:
OCTOPUS: Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
Unless of course Mr. Octopus managed to find one of the 80,000 pairs of Nike shoes that were lost from the Hansa Carrier of the coast of Korea in 1990. If he were shellfish enough to swipe four pair for himself, he’d be floundering around in footwear worth a lot of clams. And, without a trout, he’d be able to go “swoosh” in a way the Nike logo designers probably never anticipated.
Other athletically-minded fishies might take advantage of a spill of thousands of pieces of hockey equipment – shin guards, chest protectors and gloves. Since they already have skates, they could start one heck of a game, giving a whole new meaning to ‘pick-up’ hockey, complete with reeferees to call penalties for roughy.
Of course, no game of hockey would be complete without beer, and there’s some of that too: 500,000 cans of it to be exact, dropped by a Chinese cargo ship on June 28, 1997. Although I imagine that many cans bobbing around could be painful — perhaps this is where the idea for beer battered fish came about. There’s always the danger too that less responsible fish might drink and dive; in any case overindulgence would give them a haddock from the hangover.
Indeed, Charlie the Tuna never had it so good, if you consider the fact that yet another spill contained thousands of Hershey’s Kisses, Tootsie Rolls, and Werther’s candies. Unfortunately, life in the deep blue isn’t always a box of chocolates: as proved when the Santa Clara I lost about 21 containers of arsenic trioxide in 1991. And who could forget the good ship Exxon Valdez?
Things aren’t much better in that other blue expanse: the sky. Scientists have had to set up a special radar system to track our space garbage because we have somehow managed to lose an astonishing 9,500 bits of junk in orbit. This includes spent rockets, nuts, bolts, and even a spacesuit glove or two – thus proving your mom was right about using those mittens-on-a-string.
This doesn’t sound too bad compared to the sheer volume of whoopsies in the ocean, except that space debris has the nasty habit of traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. Moving at that speed, even a fleck of paint could make Swiss cheese out of a satellite system, so say goodbye to seeing the season premiere of 90210 or making those 1-900-IMA-BABE calls on your cell phone. Not to mention the fact that this stuff occasionally re-enters the atmosphere and comes hurtling down to Earth.
There is a bizarre upside to all of this. Learning how to keep track of our trash has taught us a lot about space, orbits and materials safety. Studying things like the armada of bathtub toys spilled in 1992 (including, ironically, rubber ducks) has shown us much about ocean currents. Plus it has given beachcombers worldwide something to look forward to.
However if this keeps up, I’ll be able to walk to England on my next trip overseas. Providing I don’t get beaned by some astronaut’s lost keychain.
Proving once again, that with fronds like us, the ocean doesn’t need any more anemones.
(Psst: Ocean pollution is a real issue. Check out https://saveourseas.com/ to help)