Dr Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who studies ocean currents, uses spills of rogue shipping containers to refine and calibrate computer models of ocean currents. Several years ago a container of running shoes came loose and a zillion pairs of Nike runners spilled into the Pacific ocean. The precise date and location of the spill was known, and all the runners had serial numbers and could be identified. This was, "an oceanographer's dream", according to Ebbesmeyer, because over time as the shoes came ashore in different places around the pacific rim, the surface currents that put them there could be calculated with increasing degrees of precision.
Ebbesmeyer has a website, http://beachcombersalert.org/
and publishes a newsletter about the fine art of beachcombing and the fascinating stories about beach flotsam, messages in bottles, and even 'sea-beans' --- seeds of plants whose seed propagation strategies involve using the ocean to transport their seeds. Like coconuts. Or the amazing, suggestively shaped, coco de mer, photo
. Although common near the tropics, sea-beans are quite rare in the northern latitudes which makes them an even more gratifying find on Canadian beaches.
I'm an avid beachcomber and although I've sent many messages in bottles I have yet to get a reply. I love the moment I land my ocean kayak on a deserted beach on BC's central coast and start picking my way along the wrack line, looking for the unexpected treasures delivered by Neptune. Glass fishing floats used to common but have become an increasingly rare find these days.
I e-mailed Ebbesmeyer and offered to provide information on the flotsam I encounter on isolated, remote central coast beaches that are too small for fixed wing aircraft, and too exposed for typical smal craft --- like the numerous beaches near Cape Caution. He eagerly accepted my offer and has snail-mailed me a copy of the latest "Beachcomber's Alert". Here's a link to a PDF version of an issue: http://oceanmotion.org/images/research/ba_fall_2001.pdf