The company behind the Suez Canal blockage spilled 28,800 plastic toys into the ocean in the 1990s

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The company behind the Suez Canal blockage spilled 28,800 plastic toys into the ocean in the 1990s
The Ever Given, trapped in the Suez Canal, Egypt, as of Thursday March 25 2021.Suez Canal Authority
  • 28,800 plastic toys were mysteriously dumped into the ocean in the 1990s, prompting investigations.
  • They were eventually traced back to a ship operated by Evergreen Marine.
  • Evergreen Marine is the company behind the Ever Given, the vessel blocking the Suez Canal.

A ship operated by Evergreen Marine Corp., the company behind the vessel blocking the Suez Canal, once released 28,800 plastic toys into the Pacific Ocean by accident in the 1990s - and they were still washing up on shores around the world 15 years later.

The plastic toys included 7,200 red beavers, 7,200 green frogs, 7,200 blue turtles, and 7,200 yellow ducks, according to the journalist Donovan Hohn, who wrote a book about the incident in 2011.

The ship was eventually confirmed to be the Ever Laurel, operated by the Evergreen Marine.

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But the origin of the plastic toys remained unknown for years until Hohn pieced it together. He later explained the phenomenon in his book, titled "Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea."

The company behind the Suez Canal blockage spilled 28,800 plastic toys into the ocean in the 1990s
Route taken by the plastic toys after they were accidentally spilled in the Pacific Ocean in 1992.NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons

After the spill, hundreds of the toys appeared on shores around the world, prompting a scientific investigation.

Two oceanographers, Jim Ingraham and Curtis Ebbesmeyer, fed the coordinates of the plastic-toy sightings into their ocean-current surface simulator and traced the drift patterns back to the North Pacific.

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They had been using the simulator to reconstruct drift routes for 200 Nike sneakers that had previously been lost to sea when a shipment of 80,000 shoes went overboard.

Using these coordinates and cross-referencing them with shipping records, Hohn pieced together the history of the contamination back to the Ever Laurel, which had left Hong Kong on January 6, 1992 and arrived in Tacoma, Washington, on January 16.

The toys continued to wash ashore for years, with the most recent sighting in the UK in 2007.

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Evergreen Marine was back in the news this week as the company behind the Ever Given, the container ship that has blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday. The blockage is estimated to cost the global economy $400 million per hour.

The ship's owner, Japanese company Shoei Kisen, said Friday that it was sorry for the disruption, and said it hoped to free the vessel on Saturday, according to Nikkei Asia.

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