CNN) — On a stormy January night in 1992, out in the Pacific Ocean, 29,000 plastic yellow ducks, blue turtles and green frogs fell from a cargo ship and were lost at sea.
For the past 21 years, these durable plastic bath toys have been floating around the world, passing the site where the Titanic sank, landing in Japan, Alaska and Hawaii and even spending years frozen in an Arctic ice pack.
Originally sealed in a 40-foot steel shipping container, rough seas and huge waves knocked the bath toys overboard, along with several other containers that sank straight to the ocean floor.
Perhaps the best documented incident of a collision with a container happened on Jan. 11, 2000. Marine investigators believe the British scallop trawler, Solway Harvester, struck a fully-loaded container in the Irish Sea killing all seven crewmembers.
When rescuers arrived on the scene, plastic vats filled with mayonnaise were found floating near where the trawler went down.But the worst incident in the history of container shipping occurred in 1998 when APL China lost 406 containers in the north Pacific.
The ship somehow managed to survive 70-foot waves stirred up by Typhoon Babs though photographs suggest just barely. Three other containerships also fell victim, resulting in more than 1,000 containers lost overboard.
And these were just the ones we know about.“There are hundreds of ships losing random containers on a continuing basis,” said Michael McDaniel, editor of The Cargo Letter. In fact, contents from containers nobody knew were lost wash up on shore all the time.
In 2006, a beach on North Carolina’s Outer Banks was blanketed with Doritos bags, many of them unopened. Richard Laporte even remembers running over a container while working on a 2,000-ton icebreaker.“These things kept popping up,” Laporte said, referring to containers which had fallen off a ship they were assisting. “We split one open after hitting it head on at 12 knots. It was full of Cheez Whiz.”
Indeed, Donovan Hohn recently wrote an amusing book, Moby-Duck, about tracking a container full of rubber ducky bath toys washed overboard from Evergreen Ever Laurel in 1992.
The ducks drifted all over the world and are still being found.A 40-foot c