Pioneering oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer seized the world's imagination when he and his worldwide network of beachcomber volunteers traced ocean 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 quest to solve the sea's mysteries. He recounts how flotsam has changed the course of history. He reveals the rhythmic and harmonic order in the vast oceanic currents and uncovers the astonishing story of flotsam, altering the world's view of trash, the ocean, and our global environment.
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. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.