Flotsametrics and the Floating World
How One Man's Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science
Publication Date: March 2009
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Pioneering oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer unravels the mystery of marine currents, uncovers the astonishing story of flotsam, and changes the world's view of trash, the ocean, and our global environment.
Curtis Ebbesmeyer is no ordinary scientist. He's been a consulting oceanographer for multinational firms and a lead scientist on international research expeditions, but he's never held a conventional academic appointment. He seized the world's imagination as no other scientist could when he and his worldwide network of beachcomber volunteers traced the ocean's currents using thousands of sneakers and plastic bath toys spilled from storm-tossed freighters.
Now, for the first time, Ebbesmeyer tells the story of his lifelong struggle to solve the sea's mysteries while sharing his most surprising discoveries. He recounts how flotsam has changed the course of historyleading Viking mariners to safe harbors, Columbus to the New World, and Japan to open up to the Westand how it may even have made the origin of life possible. He chases icebergs and floating islands; investigates ocean mysteries from ghost ships to a spate of washed-up severed feet on Canadian beaches; and explores the enormous floating "garbage patches" and waste-heaped "junk beaches" that collect the flotsam and jetsam of industrial society. Finally, Ebbesmeyer reveals the rhythmic and harmonic order in the vast oceanic currents called gyres"the heartbeat of the world "and the threats that global warming and disintegrating plastic waste pose to the seas . . . and to us.
“Part oceanography lesson, part memoir, this cheerful book examines Ebbesmeyer’s life and work as a pioneering oceanographer (the first to work for Mobil/Standard Oil, in 1969) and connoisseur of beach-combed artifacts.”
“With a whimsical mood overlaying serious science, Ebbesmeyer’s work will appeal to the environmentally minded.”
“As much genial personal memoir as pop-oceanography exposition…When science goes right, we discover how mid-ocean spills of hockey gloves or rubber ducks enhance oceanographic understanding;
“Light and lively...Shoes, messages in bottles, and floating rubber ducks have kept Ebbesmeyer’s eye on the big picture. Besides, as readers will readily agree, they’ve been a lot of fun to study.”
-Natural History magazine
Whether you want to learn more about how the oceans tick or how we are affecting our environment, or to reminisce about science not being what it used to be, this is a very enjoyable, if at times dark, book.