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No. 84: Nov-Dec 1992

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Current Treads In The North Pacific

We are a bit hestitant about including still another eyebrow-raising item, but the source here is Eos, a weekly publication of the American Geophysical Union, and the story is irresistible!

It all began when the container ship Hansa Carrier, enroute from Korea to the U.S., encountered a fierce storm and lost 21 40-foot-long containers to the sea.

"Approximately 80,000 Nike brand shoes were lost overboard on May 27, 1990, in the north Pacific Ocean ( 48�N, 161�W). Six months to a year later, thousands of shoes washed ashore in North America from southern Oregon to the Queen Charlotte Islands...We have gathered beachcomber reports and compared the inferred shoe drift with an oceanographic hindcast model and historical drift bottle returns. This spill-ofopportunity provided a calibration point for the model. Computer runs for 1946-1991 suggested that drift of floatable material across the northeast Pacific Ocean for May 1990-January 1991 was farther south than the mean of forty-five simulations."

Route of the floating shoes
Route of the floating shoes
Well, we can tweak the model a bit; but the authors added a postscript:

"As we were finishing this article, we received reports of shoes arriving at the northern end of the Big Island of Hawaii. These shoes appear to have followed the California current southward, and then traveled westward."

(Ebbesmeyer, Curtis C., and Ingraham, W. James, Jr.; "Shoe Spill in the North Pacific," Eos, 73:361, 1992.)

Comment. In addition to the amusing thought of 80,000 athletic shoes drifting around the north Pacific, the shoes probably took the same course as many pre-Columbian Asian voyagers, some deliberately searching for new worlds and others caught by storms.

From Science Frontiers #84, NOV-DEC 1992. � 1992-2000 William R. Corliss