In 1992, in a raging storm, a container filled with 28,000 rubber ducks fell into the Pacific Ocean. Even now, rubber ducks are still washing up on beaches all over the world, as far away as Scotland , Alaska and South America. The study of their epic travels has apparently revolutionised our understanding of the world’s currents.
I love visiting beaches after a storm has blown through. The maelstrom of rolling waves pulls up all sorts of strange things and throws them out onto the sand. You never know what you’re going to find. Here are a few of my favourite discoveries…
A summer storm brought millions of tiny jelly balls to the shore at Matauri Bay, and made the beach glisten. When you swam, you could feel the little, round globules against your hands with every stroke. It seems these jelly balls, otherwise known as ‘salp’ are a common occurrence worldwide, and help combat global warming, but nobody on the beach that day had a clue what they were.
At Takou Bay, the day after a storm, there were dozens of tiny, dead seabirds and, curled around, belly up in the middle of them, a four foot hammerhead shark, its mouth surprisingly small for such a big predator.
Laid out at South Head, Hokianga, we found a huge chestnut horse deposited as if in mid-struggle against the dangerous currents. From a distance it was a rock, or a piece of driftwood. Only when we neared did we discover the sad truth.
And the last storm? Amidst a long stretch of seaweed on Te Ngaere beach sat a small, saturated boot. Only when I turned it over and saw the nailed sole did I realise how how old it was. A shipwreck shoe, perhaps, coaxed from its underwater bed by the swirling waters?
I’m hoping, one day to add one of those rubber ducks to my list of stormy surprises.