Commentary
8:00 am
Tue January 29, 2013

Into It: Rubber Ducky

The various routes the spilled rubber ducks took back in 1992.

Back in the seventies, Sesame Street’s Ernie sang to us about his favorite bath time buddy. But the rubber ducky has seen adventures far beyond the tub.

In 1992, three cargo containers leaving Hong Kong spilled into the Pacific Ocean. This released a shipment of 29,000 ducks, leaving them to bob along the open waters. But they didn’t sit idly by for long.

The pioneer duckies set out on separate paths, aimed at far-flung shores. Ten months and 2,000 miles later, they first made landfall in Alaska. Next, they washed onto the coasts of Australia and South America.

Others braved the cold of the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. Many were lost to the arctic pack ice, but five years later, the survivors emerged into the North Atlantic. The faded ducks finally arrived in Britain 15 years after their voyage began.

But the story of the rubber ducky isn’t just a fun tale, but a scientific win. NASA caught onto research coming from the roaming toys of 1992 and devised their own plans to study ocean currents. Years later in Greenland, NASA dropped 90 duckies through holes in a fast-moving glacier. This tracked the flow of melted water into the ocean and continued the history of high-tech work for these low-tech toys.

Music: "In the Upper Room, Dance II" from Glassworks by Philip Glass & "Beds" from The House of Apples and Eyeba by The Octopus Project + Black Mo

Tags: