Emily Witt writes:
Two decades ago a container ship travelling from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Washington, hit a winter storm and several shipping containers were washed overboard into the North Pacific. Among the lost cargo were 28,800 plastic bath toys: red beavers, green frogs, blue turtles and yellow ducks. A year later, hundreds of the things began washing up on the islands around Sitka, Alaska, and amateur beachcombers practising the imperfect science of driftology started mapping the path of the toys as they floated the oceanic currents. Newspapers picked up the story. Eric Carle, the writer and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, wrote a children’s book about the ducks. And 13 years after the spill, by way of a pupil’s essay, the story drifted towards Donovan Hohn, then a teacher in Manhattan.