In 1992, a cargo ship carrying bath toys got caught in a storm. Shipping containers washed overboard, and the waves swept 28,000 rubber ducks and other toys into the North Pacific. But they didn’t stick together — the ducks have since washed up all over the world.
These ducks and their worldwide adventure unexpectedly helped researchers chart how ocean currents work. In this TED-Ed by Jennifer Verduin, directed by Cabong Studios, we learn how surface currents, deep ocean currents, wind, salt, gyres, the Coriolis Effect, and other powerful factors affect how water moves around the planet.
Then watch these videos next: The Infinite Now, a series of oceanscape cinemagraphs, Fate adrift: Max Mulhern’s Aqua Dice, The Basics of Freshwater + Water, Water, Everywhere? and how did Polynesian wayfinders navigate the Pacific Ocean?
Related reading from NOAA.gov: What is the global ocean conveyor belt? And at Yale Environment 360: How Climate Change Could Jam The World’s Ocean Circulation. Plus, an activity at NatGeo: Mapping Ocean Currents.