Rubber duck search leads to high seas yarn

Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:46pm EDT
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By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Men have gone to sea in search of adventure since history began but few have searched for toy ducks and then written a book on the environment, the commercialization of childhood and consumer society.

"MOBY-DUCK: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them" is Donovan Hohn's tale of doing just that.

Hohn, 38, now a features editor for GQ magazine, was a high school English teacher in Manhattan when he first learned of a cargo of plastic toys washing off the deck of a cargo ship in reading a student's essay.

Later he had an idea for a book, a map in his hands and a vision of a journey.

"Perhaps the craziest thing I did -- forget the seafaring and walking around in the habitat of polar bears -- was quit my job and give up employer subsidized health benefits," said Hohn.

All told the book consumed some five years of his life, and that was more than a dozen years after the ducks disappeared.

A travel narrative, a journey across the oceans, and a mock heroic with a solid dose of science, Hohn said it was largely the book he intended to write.

Starting with the position of the January 1992 toy spill, which was actually 7,200 red beavers, 7,200 green frogs, 7,200 blue turtles and 7,200 yellow ducks, he scoured the places the toys were found, where they should have been and in a factory in China, from whence they came.   Continued...