The BBC reported last week that a container filled with millions of Lego pieces fell into the sea off Cornwall in 1997. But instead of remaining at the bottom of the ocean, they are still washing up on Cornish beaches today. Millions of Lego pieces fell into the sea on 13 February 1997, when the container ship Tokio Express was hit by a wave described by its captain as a “once in a 100-year phenomenon”, tilting the ship 60 degrees one way, then 40 degrees back. As a result, 62 containers were lost overboard about 20 miles off Land’s End – and one of them was filled with 4,756,940 pieces of Lego, bound for New York. No-one knows exactly what happened next, or even what was in the other 61 containers, but shortly after that some of those Lego pieces began washing up in both the north and south coasts of Cornwall. They’re still coming in today.
A quirk of fate meant many of the Lego items were nautical-themed, and included: 13,000 Spear guns, 4,200 Octopus, 26,600 life preservers, 418,000 flippers, 33,941 dragons, and 97,500 Scuba gear equipment.
US oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has tracked the story of the Lego since it was spilled. “The mystery is where they’ve ended up. After 17 years they’ve only been definitely reported off the coast of Cornwall,” he says. It takes on average three years for sea debris to cross the Atlantic Ocean, from Land’s End to Florida. Undoubtedly some Lego has crossed and it’s most likely some has gone around the world. But there isn’t any proof that it has arrived as yet.
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