You can find a great many objects spewed up onto modern day beaches: whiskey bottles, lost shoes, scuba tanks, decomposing whales; yet as Herman Melville expressed in his tale Moby Dick, no one knows what “sweet mystery” there is about this sea. Such is the shipment of Lego pieces lost at sea in Cornwall 17 years ago, its fragments still reportedly being washed up and found on beaches all around the world.
On Feb. 13, 1997, the New York-bound Tokio Express, was struck by a huge wave resulting in a shipping container filled with nearly 5 million Lego pieces being thrown into the sea. According to the BBC News, 62 containers were lost overboard some 20 miles offshore.
Tracey Williams, British writer, runs a Facebook page — Lego Lost at Sea — documenting the lego discoveries. Of the 4.8 million Lego pieces lost overboard, an estimated 3.2 million of them were light enough to have floated to the surface, Williams says.
While confirmed findings from the Lego container have been limited to the U.K. to date, however Facebook users around the world have been reporting possible discoveries. Last week, a woman from Australia sent Tracy a photo of a Lego flipper found washed ashore in Melbourne.
Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who studied the Tokio Express case, wrote, “It’s possible that after 17 years, a Lego flipper could have made it to Australia.”
And while the daily Lego discoveries may be a dream for some beachcombers, they’re a nightmare for environmentalists. An environmental campaigner says the legacy of the lost Lego illustrates how marine waste and litter floats around for years, posing a risk to wildlife and polluting our seas.
With much of it nautically themed, keep an eye out for a stray flipper, octopus, seaweed frond or even dragon washing up on your local beach as a nostalgic memento.