Flotsam Found

Ratings: 9.04/10 from 24 users.

Flotsam FoundWhat 29,000 Lost Toys Have Told Us About Our Oceans? Our oceans sure look pretty from afar, but if you take a closer look, you'll find plenty of gross stuff lurking around. There are as many as 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of ocean, threatening the health of our seas, especially the marine wildlife inhabiting them.

But there is at least one good thing scientists can get from all this junk: a better understanding of the behavior of complicated ocean currents, which are shaped by a number of disparate forces and affect, among other things, the climate and the distribution of Earth's life forms. By studying the movement of ocean flotsam—in particular, the movement of 29,000 bathtub toys that were lost from a cargo ship in 1992—retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has uncovered quite a bit about our ocean's currents and the places they carry litter.

Join WIRED Science host Ziya Tong as she and Ebbesmeyer explore the mysteries of surface currents and discover just how much bathtub toys and messages-in- bottles can tell us about our beloved oceans. Learn, too, about a section of the ocean appropriately called the "Great Garbage Patch" and about a piece of software called OSCURS that can determine, from just its starting point and date, exactly where a lost piece of plastic will end up years later.

More great documentaries

20 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Dubbledub

    Wow, Ted, what a doosh. I'm not even religious, but I'm also not a gi-normous, intolerant a-hole, either. In what way does a religious well-wish in a bottle detract from your quality of life? Or anyone else's? Answer: no way whatsoever. The irony of liberal blatherings like yours directed at Charles B. is that leftist, Democrat, "progressives" (like you) yammer on and on about the intolerant, conservative, religo-sheeple on the right who can't accept immigrants, blacks, LGBT, etc, etc, etc. And yet you are - by far - the most intolerant, judgemental, spiteful, divisive cretins our country has. The only tolerance you have is for those of identical ideologies. Disgusting. Save your demeaning banter for the imagined transgressions that you and your lib friends like to pin on the right. You can all sit around, espousing the virtues of say, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher and Janeane Garofalo, thinking you're the party of "intellects". Smug, intolerant, self-righteous, fart-sniffing "intellects." It takes a special kind of liberal a-hole to go after someone's harmless story with the vitriol you showed. Rot. Rot slow and stinky.

  2. pssst .....

    Bla, bla, bla ..... when are the environmentalists going to realize that the fact that their "scientists" have lied cooked the numbers to such a degree that anything they say, whether or not there is any true science or fact in their statements, is now viewed as just more lies?

    Exaggeration and flat out lies presented as "science" and touted as fact have destroyed their credibility for most of the population.

    Lie to me once, might just be a mistake, lie to me twice, might just be flawed data or misinterpretation due lack of data, lie to me hundreds of times and continue to claim those lies are facts, anything they say is assumed to be a lie, no matter how true. They have destroyed the credibility of their own cause.

  3. Sebastian Oxley

    I Love those Science guys @Jeremy someone should give them a collective name like scientists or something crazy like that.

  4. PaulGloor

    I wonder if they've considered introducing water vapor to the positive air pressure idea.

    I think Mythbusters took a crack at it too.

  5. Jeremy

    I saw a documentary, where a science guy proved this Doc is kinda bullsh*t. Basically, he takes the most common forms of plastic, puts them in a makeshift salt water wave pool, and in less than a week they are broken down, completely. Including 6 pack plastics, milk jugs, thick chunks of hard plastic, even some industrial PVC. It all broke down into tiny tiny particles. He shows that the floating trash dumps in our oceans, are in fact a myth. Due to the simple fact that the Sea is super abrasive, and plastic breaks down quickly in that environment. Now, I'm not saying it's ok to dump plastic in the ocean, but this documentary is misleading, plastic does not float eternally, sorry, it's just not true. We should stop doing it though, cuz I doubt fish like eating that stuff.

    1. Kateye70

      There are several oceanic garbage patches, all the oceans have them (just wiki it). They include but are not limited to plastic. And while the plastic may break down into small particles, those absorb toxins that are then ingested by wildlife. Even small particles become an issue if you swallow enough of them. (Know what a bezoar is?)

      Also, if I'm not mistaken, while there are some plastics that break down into small pieces, others do not. It's all in the chemistry.

      We've been dumping trash into the oceans for centuries and in the last hundred years the rate of pollution has skyrocketed right along with our populations and industries.

      Has something to do with an old human attitude that the world is somehow infinite; make a mess in one spot, shrug and move on. That's no longer an option.

  6. Jo McKay

    Gotta love that end "Good night Citizens". This was actually a program 'Wired Science' - excellent. The piece on our becoming a 'plastics people' is the first segment. The other two are also interesting and worth the watch. Peace

  7. averageuser

    very interesting,only,it actually starts at 4min,and ends 10 min later,followed by another topic,:(

  8. open minded

    two kids saying "jesus loves you" is not pushing religion on anyone. jesus is representative of love, kindness and compassion in ANY religion to anyone open minded enough to accept that and see beyond their own limitations of thinking. read jesus' story. its a story. why cant people be free to discuss the merits of their deities? if i put a message in a bottle saying "ganesh wants to remove obstacles in your life" is that pushing hinduism? we each need be careful of our own polarised ways of thinking as they have much in common with any fundamentalism. wtf has this got to do with plastic anyway?

  9. Colleen

    I understand the frustration with people imposing religion. I don't like it either. I do agree with you, Ted, but why be so mean? These two kids (obviously the poster still feels the same) meant well with their note. They only pushed what they had been told. I have to admit, I'd have liked the story better if there had been a change in the viewpoint all those years later. Would've been funny if they'd found a message in a bottle that pushed another religion on them though :)

  10. sexyladywithBOOBS

    well said ted, want some head in bed by lips painted red or ted would you reather shed some of your liquid lead onto the top of my head while i butter your bread? :)

    1. Brandon Schultz

      Should we put on a good CD and could we cruise the hood? I'm in a mood to be rude and lewd that's why I pursued you and Jude only Jude has a crude attitude.

    2. rogeridoo

      If Ted says no, would you give me a go, with your head down below. Oh! Oh! Oh!

  11. kijiji

    well there is my plastic teddy bear, i knew, I'd put it somewhere! I LIKED TED'S COMMENT.

  12. stone

    Could not have said it better myself Ted.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Well said Ted. I agree.

  14. Ted

    Charles B;

    "So very disappointing to find your own evangelism note you thought floated all the way to China to encourage someone within eye shot from the very bridge you threw it from".

    maybe the lesson learned here is that you should keep your religion to yourself instead of throwing your crap around like a monkey.

  15. hole lotta love

    this program is about holes?
    i didnt even notice, keen eye arkeron!

  16. Charles B.

    Ok, true story time:

    My brother and I put a message in a bottle and threw it into the swollen Coast Fork of the Willimette River near our house after a big storm. We were just kids. He included our names and how to contact us, and a note that "Jesus loves you" to help evangelize someone far far away.

    Maybe five years later while fishing on the same river (or perhaps even 10 years later). We saw a bottle in some flood trash high up on the shore and could see a note in it. How exciting! We opened it up and OMG! You guessed it! Our "Jesus loves you" message only floated about 100 feet before being cought in a garbage clog on the shore that stayed for years! So very disappointing to find your own evangelism note you thought floated all the way to China to encourage someone within eye shot from the very bridge you threw it from. :-(

    Lesson learned? Pollute when the river is low, not when it's at a once-in-a-blue-moon roaring monster if you want your "foatism" to reach China, or at least the next city downriver. :-)

  17. arkeron

    Every time i hear global warming due co2, the level of credibility i give to the hole program-related to awg or not, drop a lot.