Synopses & Reviews
A revelatory tale of science, adventure, and modern myth.
When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn's accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.
Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duck is a compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity.
"Whimsical curiosity begets a quixotic odyssey and troubling revelations about plastics polluting the seas in former high school teacher and journalist Hohn's charming account of what he learned searching for 28,800 rubber bath toys lost at sea in 1992. His curiosity, prompted by a student's quirky essay, begins in 2005 around Sitka, Alaska, where yellow 'duckies,' frogs, turtles, and beavers washed up after three-story waves buffeted a container ship traveling from China to America. Hohn, a senior editor at Harper's magazine, eventually tracks more rogue ducks bobbing up from isolated Gore Point, Alaska, to Maine beaches. The author's quest leads him to a research vessel trawling for degraded plastic in Hawaiian seas, to the Chinese factory where the toys were manufactured, aboard a container vessel traversing the same route as the original ship (a particularly hair-raising section), and finally to the high Arctic to study the science of oceanic drift. Packed with seafaring lore and astute reporting, this enthralling narrative is the Moby Dick of drifting ducks. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Like Bill Bryson on hard science, or John McPhee with attitude...This dazzles from start to finish." Booklist (Starred Review)
"A finely spun chronicle...a gladdening, artful journey of discovery." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"The book [is] by turns light-hearted and serious but always a pleasure to read....Moby-Duck is highly readable and, importantly, alive with a sense of intellectual curiosity. Indeed, what Melville did for whaling, Hohn has done for plastic bath toys lost at sea." The Boston Globe
"Hohn cleverly uses the deceptively whimsical premise of chasing a little plastic duck to provoke a massively complicated and thought-provoking conversation. Who knew spilled bath toys could be so important?" Chicago Sun-Times
"Donovan Hohn ships out with an engaging Moby-Duck....an exploration in every sense [Moby-Duck] will remind readers of the best of John McPhee and Ian Frazier. And maybe, even, of the weird and wonderful Herman Melville himself." The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer
"Adventurous, inquisituve and brightly illuminating....[Moby-Duck] works as a lively travelogue as well as a voyage of discovery and philosophical inquiry." The New York Times
About the Author
Donovan Hohn is the recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award, a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, Hopwood Awards in essay and poetry, and a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship. His work has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, and The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2. A former English teacher, and a former senior editor of Harper's, he is now the features editor of GQ. He lives in New York with his wife and sons. Moby-Duck is his first book.