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Maps: Where LEGO Washes Up

In February 13, 1997, the cargo ship Tokio Express hit a terrible wave while off the coast of Cornwall, UK. It tilted 60º, rocking the ship badly and sending 62 shipping containers into the sea. Inside those containers were approximately 4.8 million LEGO pieces. Ever since, pieces have been washing up around the world, mostly in Cornwall. Some people, as a hobby, comb particular beaches known to have many LEGO pieces. Mario Cacciottolo writes for BBC News:

Beachcomber Tracey Williams has been picking up Lego along the Cornish coastline ever since a container spill dumped millions of the toy pieces into the sea in 1997. […]

Most of the people who've contacted her found Lego around Cornwall, she says. "From what I've been told, Perranporth is a hotspot for brooms, and the Lizard seems to be a hotspot for octopuses."

Brighton, East Sussex, some 300 miles away, is the furthest confirmed report she has received to the east along England's southern coastline. But some of the sightings have come from much further afield.

The BBC created these maps that illustrate known LEGO beach findings. Are all of them far away from the UK actually from the Tokio Express? One oceanographer thinks that it's possible:

US oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who has tracked the story of the Lego since it was spilled, says the Gulf Stream ocean current comes over from the United States and then "impinges on the UK, like hitting a knife edge" around Land's End.

"Looking at the map, it seems like the current is pushing drifters - the pieces of Lego - up the English Channel and they're probably now entering the North Sea.

"And they also seem to be getting pushed up the west coast of the UK also, judging by the finds that have been made there."

Ebbesmeyer believes the claim of a Lego item from the Tokio Express being found in the Netherlands is "probably true" but says he is less sure about some of the other international finds.

"Lego is a popular toy and kids leave them on beaches all around the world," he said. "It's difficult to know whether they're from this container spill.

"But the octopus found in Texas could be from the Tokio Express. It matches the drift pattern across the Atlantic. Hard to know for sure, but it is possible."

-via Marilyn Terrell


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