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Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man's Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science

Popular Science

By: Curtis Ebbesmeyer(Author), Eric Scigliano(Author)

286 pages, B/w illus

Harper Perennial

Paperback | Aug 2010 | #188714 | ISBN-13: 9780061558429
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £9.99 $13/€11 approx
Hardback | Apr 2009 | #181833 | ISBN-13: 9780061558412
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About this book

Curtis Ebbesmeyer is no ordinary scientist. Though he has degrees in engineering and oceanography, he's never held a traditional academic post, choosing instead to consult, for everyone from the oil companies to Seattle sewage treatment facilities to the Navy, and then, along the way, he's followed his interests, researching many different aspects of ocean currents. In May 1990 a Korean freighter was wracked by a storm and spilled its cargo – over 60,000 Nike sneakers – into the North Pacific.

Soon, these sneakers were carried away on the ocean's currents and found washing up on coasts around the world. Ebbesmeyer realized that he could use the exact time and location of the spill, along with the location that each sneaker (conveniently individually tagged) was salvaged to track the ocean current which brought it there! This new science technique quickly captured the imaginations of beachcombers and media around the world, particularly after the spill of 29,000 plastic bath toys in 1992.

Ebbesmeyer gathered a worldwide team of volunteers, and continued to search out and document the location at which the objects, set afloat by cargo spills, finally hit the shore. It is a fascinating look at the creativity and energy of a most unusual man – as well as offering an amazing look at what currents have meant for the world and especially mankind through the centuries.

"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."
– Nature

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Curt Ebbsemeyer holds a PhD in oceanography from the University of Washington. He also publishes the quarterly newsletter Beachcombers' Alert.

Eric Scigliano is a science writer who has written about maritime issues and marine ecosystems for over 20 years. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, Discover, and Harper's, among other publications. He is the author of three books, most recently Michelangelo's Mountain, and has recieved Livingston, Kennedy, and American Association for the Advancement of Science writing honours.

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