Sea yarns about mythical sea monsters and elusive giant creatures from the ocean’s mysterious depths have pervaded the human imagination for centuries. Surely, however, this must be the first time a seafaring man is seeking adventure from a quest for toy ducks and other plastic toys.
Out to the sea in ships in search of plastic toys may not seem like a heroic tale, but for author, Donovan Hohn, his book, MOBY-DUCK: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them, has struck an important chord among environmentalists and consumers and the commercialization of childhood.
The 38-year-old former high school English teacher from Manhattan is now a features editor at GQ Magazine. He was inspired to write the book after reading one of his student’s essays about a cargo of plastic toys that washed off the deck of a ship. He took that giant leap into the pit of uncertainty; he gave up his job with health benefits and set off to follow those rubber ducks for five years of his life.
The end result is a unique travel narrative marking a journey across the world’s oceans; an almost scientific epic that begins with the position of the January 1992 toy spill. This involved 7,200 red beavers, 7,200 green frogs, 7,200 blue turtles and 7,200 rubber ducks. He tracked them, following the route from where they were found to where they came from, namely, a factory in China.
Although he didn’t intend to make the book an environmental story, Hohn hopes that its inherent message about how man has damaged the ocean’s chemistry does not go unnoticed.
Ubiquitous yellow rubber ducks are innocuous toys, but they are silent symbols of the power of plastics and the phenomenon of excessive consumerism. Their harmlessness belies both the deepness of the book and the rising trend in destructive forces taking their toll on our environment.
The good news is that isn’t too late to save our oceans for future generations. We must all pitch in for where would we (and all those ducks) be without our majestic, timeless oceans?