Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea by Donovan Hohn
|Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea by Donovan Hohn|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Peter Magee|
|Summary: The intriguing image of a plastic bath toy adrift on the ocean prompted the author to investigate what happened to nearly 30,000 of the toys and the result is a very readable and compelling book with a wake-up call over what we are all doing to the planet. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: February 2012|
|Publisher: Union Books|
|External links: Author's website|
In January 1992 a container ship was on its way from China to the USA when it was caught in a storm and two containers broke loose from the deck. They held nearly thirty thousand bath toys - yellow ducks, green frogs, red beavers and blue turtles - which were freed when the containers broke up and have circumnavigated the globe for almost twenty years. Donovan Hohn was a teacher and when one of his students wrote an essay describing what had happened to the toys it caught Hohn's imagination. The rest is - as they say - history and a very good book.
Hohn is a natural story teller who gave up a secure teaching job which he enjoyed - at a time when his wife was about to give birth to their first child - to discover what had happened to the toys. Initially he thought that this would involve talking to a few people - from oceanographers to beachcombers - and learning quite a bit about the science and geography of the oceans. It was, if you like, his pet project but he was soon carried away by what he found. In his own words questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they can carry you away and the project became an in-depth investigation.
His journey takes him to the exact point where the ducks went overboard but stretches across the globe as he tracks down the toys, some having degenerated more than others. Shockingly he read of surveys indicating that on some remote oceanic islands there were similar levels of debris to those adjacent to heavily industrialised coasts. Responsibility falls equally between east and west - no one can hold their head high here. Shrewd multinational corporations showcase their environmental concerns by sponsoring beach clean-up operations whilst turning a blind eye to their own part in the causes of pollution.
Does all this sound rather dry? On the contrary this is a gem of a book which everyone concerned for the future of the planet should read. It's a book which you need to work at to get the full value from it but it's well worth the effort. It's both thought-provoking and quirky. Not many books can confidently range from the effects of plastic debris on marine life to the reasons why a government preferred that boys should play with toys (rather than something else) in the bath without diminishing the impact of the problems we face.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
The ducks originated in China - if you'd like to read more about the Chinese economy then you might enjoy Demystifying the Chinese Economy by Justin Yifu Lin. For more on what is happening in Arctic try The Future History of the Arctic: How climate, resources and geopolitics are reshaping the north, and why it matters to the world by Charles Emmerson.
You can read more book reviews or buy Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea by Donovan Hohn at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea by Donovan Hohn at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.