Container ship entering the Kiel Canal

Article: Harper’s on a spill of rubber ducks

Yesterday’s review of Moby-Duck may have deterred you from seeking out the book for your own reading pleasure. You may, however, enjoy a literary approach to the topic of spilled bath toys more than I did… And for this reason I bring you an extended excerpt (possibly adapted) from the early parts of the book, by author Donovan Hohn, published at Harpers in 2007.

We know that twelve of the colorful containers stacked above deck snapped loose from their moorings and tumbled overboard. We can safely assume that the subsequent splash was terrific, like the splash a train would make were you to drive it off a seaside cliff. We know that each container measured forty feet long and eight feet wide and may have weighed as much as 58,000 pounds, depending on the cargo, and that at least one of them—perhaps when it careened into another container, perhaps when it struck the ship’s stays, perhaps as it descended to high-pressure depths—burst open. We know that when it left port, this ill-fated container had contained 7,200 little packages; that, as the water gushed in and the steel box sank, all or most of these packages came floating to the surface; that every package comprised a plastic shell and a cardboard back; that every shell housed four hollow plastic animals—a red beaver, a blue turtle, a green frog, and a yellow duck—each about three inches long; and that printed on the cardboard in multicolored lettering were the following words: FLOATEES. THE FIRST YEARS. FROM 6 MONTHS. EXPERT DEVELOPED ? PARENT PREFERRED. 100% DISHWASHER SAFE.

Read the article here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.