Flotsam, feet, and the Pacific Ocean’s garbage patch

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Have you heard that incredible story about the severed, sneaker-clad feet that’ve recently begun to wash up on west coast beaches?

It’s an ominous tale, to be sure, but Canada’s Globe and Mail took the opportunity to write a light-hearted article about some devoted flotsam collectors and the strange things they’ve found over the years. Brian Gisborne, a former fisherman, says he’s found whale harpoons, aircraft wreckage, and a “25-year-old message in a bottle that was tossed by an 83-year-old cruise ship passenger.” In one particular region of the Pacific Ocean just north of Hawaii (known as the “garbage patch”), beachcombers have found hockey gloves, rubber duckies, and running shoes (without feet), many of which have fallen off shipping vessels.

There’s also a fascinating timeline of noteworthy beachcomber discoveries…

May, 1990: The vessel Hansa Carrier loses 21 shipping containers carrying 80,000 Nike shoes. Within six months, beachcombers from California to the Queen Charlotte Islands are wearing new shoes.

January, 1992: A container with tens of thousands of plastic ducks, beavers, turtles and frogs falls off a ship in the mid-Pacific. They later show up on beaches as far away as Scotland.

1997: Nearly five million Lego pieces en route from Europe to the United States tumble from a container ship. By 2020, they will have turned up on beaches throughout the northern hemisphere, according to oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer.

Late 2006: South Carolinians take to the beaches in droves after thousands of bags of Doritos start washing ashore.

January, 2007: Foragers in England make off with exhaust pipes, beauty cream and 50 BMW motorcycles after 40 containers from the shipwrecked MSC Napoli wash ashore.

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