Excerpt from Beach: Nike Shoes Wash Up, by Janice Posada of The Daily Herald (Everett, Washington, 2001)
"Each year, manufacturers around the world ship more than 100 million containers each the size of a semi-truck across the seven seas. Gumball dispensers, doll heads and Beanie Babies stitched and glued in China sail across the Pacific Ocean to U.S. ports. Made-in-Hungary frocks and Pez candies travel 10th class across the Atlantic on container ships, which carry on average 4,500 containers. But not all of them will reach port.
Every year, more than 10,000 containers fall overboard and spill their cargo into the ocean. Storms are often to blame. On May 27th, 1990, in one of the strangest shipping accidents ever, 80,000 pairs of Nikes went missing during a storm in the Pacific Ocean en route from South Korea to the U.S. Sixteen years later, some are still circumnavigating the earth like miniature Magellan's."
In 2003, I spoke to Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who has been tracking these spills around the globe. I wanted to find out if there were any photographs of the spills. This is what he wrote back to me:
"Alas! How I wish I had photos of the actual incidents. I have seen one photo but was not allowed to get a copy. When these 40 ton behemoths rumble overboard, you do not want to be near as the ship rolls 50 plus degrees to each side. The container industry would not want you taking such photos and these accidents happen on only so many transits of the ocean."