Synopses & Reviews
Pioneering oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer unravels the mystery of marine currents, uncovers the astonishing story of flotsam, and changes the world's view of trash, the ocean, and our global environment.
Curtis Ebbesmeyer is no ordinary scientist. He's been a consulting oceanographer for multinational firms and a lead scientist on international research expeditions, but he's never held a conventional academic appointment. He seized the world's imagination as no other scientist could when he and his worldwide network of beachcomber volunteers traced the ocean's currents using thousands of sneakers and plastic bath toys spilled from storm-tossed freighters.
Now, for the first time, Ebbesmeyer tells the story of his lifelong struggle to solve the sea's mysteries while sharing his most surprising discoveries. He recounts how flotsam has changed the course of history—leading Viking mariners to safe harbors, Columbus to the New World, and Japan to open up to the West—and how it may even have made the origin of life possible. He chases icebergs and floating islands; investigates ocean mysteries from ghost ships to a spate of washed-up severed feet on Canadian beaches; and explores the enormous floating "garbage patches" and waste-heaped "junk beaches" that collect the flotsam and jetsam of industrial society. Finally, Ebbesmeyer reveals the rhythmic and harmonic order in the vast oceanic currents called gyres—"the heartbeat of the world "—and the threats that global warming and disintegrating plastic waste pose to the seas . . . and to us.
"Part oceanography lesson, part memoir, this cheerful book examines Ebbesmeyer's life and work as a pioneering oceanographer (the first to work for Mobil/Standard Oil, in 1969) and connoisseur of beach-combed artifacts. His primary interest is ocean currents, especially gyres great circular, interlocking currents that sweep the Earth's waters with clockwork regularity and the flotsam they carry around the planet. Everything from athletic shoes and bathtub toys to messages in bottles and corpses have provided data to help Ebbesmeyer trace currents. He recounts how flotsam guided colonization and exploration, from Norse explorers to Christopher Columbus (the first to master the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre). Today, Ebbesmeyer says, the human propensity for creating garbage has also made flotsam an environmental concern, with too many studies 'neatly filed away and forgotten.' This account, made lively with the help of journalist Scigliano (Puget Sound), might encourage many readers to dream of 'roundi[ng] the gyres' like Ebbesmeyer, 'searching out the world's trashiest beaches.' Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"You may have heard the saga of the seafaring Nikes. On May 27, 1990, a cargo vessel en route to Los Angeles hit a sudden storm. Five containers of Nike shoes washed overboard. The next winter, shoes showed up on Vancouver Island beaches.
As winds shifted, so did the path of the Nikes, until thousands landed on the Oregon coast. The phenomena caught the attention of oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer. Using tracking numbers on the shoes combined with information provided by Nike, he began to chart the precise path the shoes had taken, thus beginning a midlife specialty in floating objects." Katie Schneider, The Oregonian (read the entire Oregonian review)
Pioneering oceanographer Ebbesmeyer uncovers the astonishing story of flotsam, unravels the mystery of marine currents, and changes the world's views of trash, the ocean, and the global environment. b&w illustrations.
“Ebbesmeyers goal is noble and fresh: to show how the flow of ocean debris around the world reveals ‘the music of the worlds oceans.”
—New York Times Book Review
Through the fascinating stories of flotsam, one of the Earths greatest secrets is revealed. In Flotsametrics and the Floating World, maverick scientist Curtis Ebbesmeyer details how his obsession with floating garbage—from rubber ducks to discarded Nike sneakers—helped to revolutionize ocean science. Scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki, host of CBC TVs “The Nature of Things,” calls Flotsametrics and the Floating World “Science and storytelling at its very best.” “A very enjoyable, if at times dark, book” (Nature), it is must reading for anyone interested in Oceanography, Environmental Science, and the way our world works.
About the Author
Curtis Ebbesmeyer holds a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Washington. Media worldwide have turned to his expertise on ocean currents and floating objects. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Eric Scigliano, winner of Livingston and AAAS prizes for reporting, has written for Harper's, New Scientist, the New York Times, and many other publications. His books include Puget Sound, Michelangelo's Mountain, and Love, War, and Circuses.