On Feb. 13, 1997, a rogue wave rocked the Tokio Express 20 miles off Land’s End, England. The ship rolled 60 degrees one way and 40 the other, flinging 62 containers overboard, including one containing 4,756,940 LEGO pieces. The parts, in 100 shapes, were to be placed into kits in Connecticut. Ironically, many were sea-related. Along with the rafts and fins are tiny life preservers (26,000, yellow), scuba tanks (97,500, gray), diver legs (132,000, gray and yellow) and octopuses (4,200, black). `
Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer and foremost authority in the arcane field of tracking marine trash tackled the issue.
LEGO sent Ebbesmeyer samples and a manifest. Working with his sophisticated test tank — a bucket — he found 53 types floated and calculated that as many as 3,178,407 pieces could be adrift. Ebbesmeyer knows at least some escaped the container because pieces washed up in Cornwall, England, including dragons (33,941, black and green) and seagrass (54,400, green).
The pieces are very small, ranging from 383,244 daisies three-eighths of an inch long to 26,400 pieces of ship rigging measuring five inches. Ebbesmeyer figures that only about 3,000 pieces will be reported found.
“It takes about 14 months to go around the Atlantic gyre, down to Spain and then looping over to Florida, basically the route Columbus followed,” he says. The gyre is the loop formed by the currents circulating in the North Atlantic — the Canary, the North Equatorial and the Gulf Stream. Once in the fast-flowing stream, pieces will flow north toward the Carolinas, but winds and waves should bring some pieces ashore, likely starting in Florida, Ebbesmeyer says.
In 1997 I was married with my third little one on the way and I don’t remember hearing about this at all. My brother LOVES (yes, still loves) Legos. Where did they go?
Other than that, I haven’t been able to find much more about them. It’s been 17 years. I wonder how many ocean animals have died from eating these little plastic bits. If anyone has any news on this, please share it.