Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why are there Lego on the beach?” you ask? Good question. As someone who has met and assisted one of the few Lego Master Builders in the world this is not an unfamiliar subject. (In fact, somewhere yours truly and his 16 year-old son still have autographed t-shirts from one of the building projects in which they participated.)
The UK now has stranger places than Stonehenge. Check out the beach in Cornwall. It’s there you may just discover more than the expected array of sand, seaweed and seashells. Indeed, you might come across a tiny spear gun, a life preserver or even diving flippers.
Yes, these are ocean-themed piece of Legoland. Indeed, Lego have been washing up on the Cornish coast quite frequently for over a decade. This blend of cultural oddity and theoretical environmental issue is a part of a life lesson about the power of the mighty sea.
Travel back through the mists of time to February 13, 1997. A New York-bound cargo ship, Tokio Express, is struck by a wily wave while it was but 20 miles away from land’s End on the southwest coast of the UK. The ship weathered the wall of water but some of its cargo—specifically 62 shipping containers—were thrown overboard when the not-so-tiny ship was tossed.
One container held Lego kits. Many of the Lego were naturally nautical-themed. According to sources such as the BBC there were exactly 4,756,940 Lego pieces lost at sea. Included were 26,600 life preservers, 4,200 octopi, 97,500 scuba tanks and 13,000 spear guns.
While most of the containers took a voyage to the bottom of the sea, one opened, releasing the Lego into the Atlantic. Reporter Mario Cacciottolo said: “No one knows exactly what happened next or even what was in the other 61 containers, but shortly after that some of those Lego pieces began washing up in both the north and south coasts of Cornwall.” In fact, they’re still washing ashore to this day.
The marine mystery here though is why are there Lego all over the beach in just one place? Sea debris in that area could have made it to the coast of Florida in less than three years and yet none of the Lego have arrived there yet. In fact, it has not washed up anywhere but Cornwall.
Perhaps there is something unusual about the currents in that area. Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer stated: “Tracking currents is like tracking ghosts—you can’t see them. You can only see where flotsam started and where it ended up.”
Why are there Lego on the beach? Now you know.
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