Follow the Rubber Duck to See How Plastic Travels the Sea

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CC BY 2.0. Flickr user Cjuneau

Ever wondered how a plastic bottle gets from your nearest beach to one of the giant trash gyres? A cool interactive site can show you a path, using the help of a rubber duck to navigate. Drop the digital duck anywhere in the ocean, and will model the movement of plastic from that spot over ten years.

Ocean scientists have been tracking the path of floating plastic around the globe using a fleet of standardized buoys since 1982:

"These buoys float with the currents just like plastics except - like Twitter from the sea - they send a short message to scientists every six hours about where they are and the conditions in that location."

Dr. Erik Van Sebille is one of these scientists, and Adrift is modeled on his work.

The use of the duck seems to be inspired by the 1992 spill of Friendly Floatee bath toys, where an accidental dump of 28,800 rubber ducks, turtles and frogs turned into a research opportunity for oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer.

The Adrift project is an excellent reminder of how intertwined we are by the oceans. Click on over and drop the ducky on your nearest coastline.

adrift website capture