| Curtis Ebbesmeyer|
| Flotsametrics and the Floating World|
University of Washington
Curtis Charles Ebbesmeyer is an American oceanographer who, in retirement, has studied the movement of flotsam. He came to public attention through his interest in The First Years' rubber ducks (actually Friendly Floatees) a consignment of bath toys washed into the Pacific Ocean in 1992.
Ebbesmeyer was born April 24, 1943 in Los Angeles, California. Educated at the University of Washington, where he gained a Ph.D. in oceanography in 1973, Ebbesmeyer monitored ocean currents by tracking buoys and markers dropped at sea. Stories vary as to the origin of Ebbesmeyer's use of flotsam as markers. In May 1990 80,000 Nike sneakers were released from a container washed off the ship Hansa Carrier. When Ebbesmeyer's mother heard about those shoes floating in the currents she said: "Well isn't that what you do?" He says that from this he saw the opportunity to monitor ocean currents from the distribution of the shoes washing up on the coasts of Oregon and Washington. However, in a 1999 article, Ebbesmeyer credits the discovery by Richard Strickland, a colleague at the University of Washington School of Oceanography, of a Chinese message in a bottle, which Strickland opened in 1991 having found it in June the previous year. Ebbesmeyer and his team calculated that the bottle had been released on the other side of the Pacific in 1980.
He established links with beachcombers and formed a network of people reporting the landfall of the contents of this and other spills. Using OSCURS (Ocean Surface Currents Simulation), a computer simulator developed by Seattle oceanographer Jim Ingraham, Ebbesmeyer tracked the oceanic movement of all kinds of flotsam including 34,000 ice hockey gloves washed off the Hyundai Seattle in 1994. Prior to this, he had specialised in forecasting the movement of oil spills and sewage.
Ebbesmeyer founded the nonprofit Beachcombers' and Oceanographers' International Association in 1996 for which he writes and publishes the magazine Beachcombers' Alert.
In retirement, Ebbesmeyer has continued to work with Evans-Hamilton, Inc., a Seattle-based oceanography company offering in physical oceanography services, meteorological conditions studies, and application of marine and freshwater instrumentation.
Ebbesmeyer has worked with marine scientist Charles Moore, who, in 1999, published findings that the ratio of plastic to zooplankton (in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre) is about six to one, with consequent harm to ocean life from the very start of the food chain.
Curtis Ebbesmeyer Wikipedia