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Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science Hardcover – March 24, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Part oceanography lesson, part memoir, this cheerful book examines Ebbesmeyer's life and work as a pioneering oceanographer (the first to work for Mobil/Standard Oil, in 1969) and connoisseur of beach-combed artifacts. His primary interest is ocean currents, especially gyres—great circular, interlocking currents that sweep the Earth's waters with clockwork regularity—and the flotsam they carry around the planet. Everything from athletic shoes and bathtub toys to messages in bottles and corpses have provided data to help Ebbesmeyer trace currents. He recounts how flotsam guided colonization and exploration, from Norse explorers to Christopher Columbus (the first to master the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre). Today, Ebbesmeyer says, the human propensity for creating garbage has also made flotsam an environmental concern, with too many studies neatly filed away and forgotten. This account, made lively with the help of journalist Scigliano (Puget Sound), might encourage many readers to dream of roundi[ng] the gyres like Ebbesmeyer, searching out the world's trashiest beaches. Illus. (Apr.)
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Stuff that washes ashore elicits the discernment of oceanographer Ebbesmeyer. He is interested both in the intrinsic properties of what beachcombers find and in what flotsam and jetsam reveal about ocean currents. For this account of an offbeat area of research, Ebbesmeyer intersperses the arc of his career, which began in the oil industry, with an eclectic suite of stories related to floating objects. Some tales concern instruments purposely thrown overboard by scientists like himself; others are about the lore of messages in bottles; most, however, concentrate on material unintentionally cast adrift. Through a combination of computer modeling and identification of the place and time something—whether a shipping container or a person—went into the water, Ebbesmeyer defines 11 great surface currents on which flotsam rides. These gyres convey telling information about the health of the oceans, as their circular action sorts immense quantities of trash, some marooned midocean in garbage patches, some preferentially beached in locales that Ebbesmeyer visits. With a whimsical mood overlaying serious science, Ebbesmeyer’s work will appeal to the environmentally minded. --Gilbert Taylor
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