www.seabean.com - Things That Float: Plastic Duckies and Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer

Rubber Duckies and Seabeans and Turtles, Oh my!
Reprinted courtesy of the author, Susan Bleiberg, and Lake Chapala Review. August 2004

RUBBER DUCKIES --- What are the odds you'd kiss a little yellow rubber duckie right onna mouth? Well, if you're an oceanographer the odds are pretty darn good.

In 1992 a freighter foundered in the North Pacific, some containment boxes washed overboard and their contents spilled out into the storm tossed waves. By their contents I mean, improbably enough, 29,000 bath toys; beavers, frogs and lizards. And, por sequesto, li'l yellow rubber duckies. They were the most durable, for reasons not entirely clear to an unscientifically minded woman such as myself; something about the shape of the toys and water displacement. Three years later, the good people of Washington State awoke to find that a flotilla of these duckies had washed up onto their beaches. To make it to that shore, by the way, they had survived a 45,000 mile dunking in the circular current of the Pacific. Because the paths of these duckies simulate ocean currents and wind patterns, they offer a living laboratory for scientists to track oil spills and predict global warming. Oceanographers just love this. Makes 'em want to smooch a little yellow fellow.

SEA BEANS --- 125 species of plants drop seeds which can survive in water longer than a month. A combination of the hardness of the shell and a small amount of air trapped under it allows these seeds to stay afloat. They're called seabeans.

One, called the seaheart, comes from a 6 to 8 (eight !!) foot long pod in the Brazilian tropical rain forest. The fallen pods are washed by torrential rains into the Amazon River, where they can travel upwards of 4000 miles. (If you could see 4000 miles away you'd be able to stand in your mirador and stare into the eyeballs of the folks in Goose Bay, Labrador.) The Amazon empties into the Atlantic and eventually, the Gulf Stream. With a little luck, then, an alert seabeaner on some faraway beach may uncover one, gently gather it up and take it home. For a superb smorgasbord of fact and fancy about seabeans, you can't do better than www.seabean.com . Give it a try, won't you? And grab something to snack while you're at it; the website is absolutely captivating and I want you to have a little nourishment as the hours fly by.

TURTLES--- Turtles have been around since the dinosaur administration, 60 million years ago. The young turtles, called hatchlings, are about 2 inches long; only one in a million lives to maturity. Although the current best guess is 80 years, the turtles' actual lifespan is still a mystery. No surprise there, it's hard to track them; those puppies can travel. Recently, in fact, turtle conservationists in Baja, Mexico were dumbfounded to discover a Loggerhead turtle on the beach. No big deal, we might think, except the turtle had been tagged in Japan. That's one heck of a trek.

The pocket sized babes float on carpets of seaweed and eat microorganisms. Float, eat, float, eat. Day after day after day. *** No wonder them li'l hatchlings kick the bucket so early; they're dying of boredom, for God's sake. I'm thinking itÂ’s only the most patient and laid back ones who manage to make it to adulthood to reproduce. Talk about your survival of the fittest, eh, Charles D? But, anyway, with all that time on their fins, food is a big issue. Why, their beady little eyes just light right up whenever they spy a sea bean floating by. They chomp down, say "Yum" and then feast on microorganism du jour. This isn't just me talking here; it's a scientific fact. Collectors often find sea beans with tiny jaw bite marks all over them.

Oh my! Here's the Oh My! part. Say you're strolling along the Cancun beach. Ambling along the tideline you spy what appears to be a little yellow rubber duckie. "Ay caramba!" you murmur to yourself, "what the hell is that?" Well, it could be a rubber duckie! And it could be nestled close to a tiny turtle hatchling! And the hatchling could be munching on a seabean! You, my friend, have just won the Beachcombers' gold medal. And as the admiring crowd hoists you up on their shoulders for a victory lap, guess what you'll all be chanting? That's right; "Rubber Duckies and Seabeans and Turtles, Oh My." Y eso es la verdad.

***OOH, that makes me so jealous. I can sit for hours doing nothing, absolutely nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Buppkiss. Actually, I'm kind of famous for that here in the Tri State Area. Some days, floating and eating would be a step up for me. I just gotta say it, I would have made one heck of a turtle hatchling.

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