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mercredi 30 juillet 2003

5 millions de pièces lego qui ont été emportés par une vague un peu forte venant d’un cargo

Rogue Wave Grabs 5Million LEGO Toy Pieces By Curtis C. Ebbesmeyer

Things often work in well-ordered ways. The LEGO Group, for example, molds billions of toy pieces (elements) in Billund, Denmark, ships them transatlantic via containers to the U.S. where they are sorted into kits sold nationwide. Well-ordered till Thursday, February 13, 1997, at 8:50 a.m. about 20 miles off Land’s End, England, when the containership Tokio Express (correct spelling) steamed into mountainous water. A rogue wave which the captain described as a "once in a 100-year phenomenon," tilted her 60 degrees one way, then 40 degrees back --- a total arc of 100 degrees --- springing 62 containers overboard (most measuring 20 or 40 feet long and weighing tons). Placed end-to-end, the Tokio Express’ carefully stacked boxes would snake ten miles. One of them held 4,756,940 LEGO plastic pieces enroute from Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to New York City, ironically millions destined for toy kits depicting sea adventures.

Did the rogue wave set adrift all of the LEGO pieces ? As kids had found some washed ashore near Cornwall, England (octopuses, dragons, sea grass, diver flippers), it is certain that the container opened, though how many escaped before it sank, remains unknown. Inside the container, the elements were sorted into plastic red, green, blue and yellow plastic tote boxes. These too had to have opened. It’s uncertain whether the totes themselves will float.

The Shipping Department of LEGO System A/S in Billund, graciously sent meticulously labeled samples and tallies of the lost elements. This, the most detailed listing of a lost container’s contents I’ve yet obtained, showed 100 different kinds of elements (in 1997 the LEGO Group molded 1,964 kinds). Once landed the pieces were to be placed into tens of thousands of toy kits at the LEGO Manufacturing Plant in Enfield, Connecticut. In case you wondered, as totaled through 1996, the LEGO Group had molded 180 billion elements, about 30 for every person now living.

I found that 53 of the 100 lost kinds floated in fresh water and, therefore, are quite buoyant in sea water (specific gravity less than 1.00 versus 1.02-1.03 for sea water). Providing they’re adrift, kids will find elements for at least ten toy kits (Table 1) : Divers, Aquazone ; Aquanauts ; Police ; FrightKnights ; WildWest ; RoboForce ; TimeCruisers ; Outback ; and Pirates.

Perhaps LEGO Clubs will coordinate the recoveries much as Steve McLeod did for the 80,000 Nikes spilled (1990) into the mid-North Pacific Ocean. Nike forgot to tie the shoe laces so that the sneakers came ashore singly but quite wearable despite a year in corrosive sea water. Via mail Steve matched thousands of the recovered sneakers thereby providing beachcombers with costly Nikes for a few dollars a pair.

Nearly every element has LEGO stamped on it. Table 1 lists by kind the number lost and some of the kits into which they were to be sorted. Note that the largest type measures 5" (ship rigging), and the smallest " (daisy). Each pair of diver flippers, as well as the daisy foursomes, were shipped as single elements. After a time, the sea probably will separate them.

Adding up the pieces, I found that 3.1 million might be adrift. Using the 0.1% rule developed from hundreds of thousands of scientific transatlantic drift bottles, about 3,000 pieces could be reported in the Americas. Since the North Atlantic’s gyres circulate flotsam back and forth between Europe and America in about a year, American beachcombers may find LEGO pieces by summer, 1998, along Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The currents may also carry LEGO elements northward past Norway into the Arctic Ocean following the fabled Northeast Passage through the coastal waters of northern Siberia, arriving in Alaska after a dozen years. From Alaska currents may carry a few southward to Japan and then across the North Pacific Ocean to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. By 2020 currents will have distributed LEGO elements throughout much of the northern hemisphere.

The elements’ size will challenge beachcombers. The 2-inch yellow rafts, because of their brightness and number (28,700 lost) may likely be the most oft reported. Remember that flotsam, like birds of a feather, flocks together. From the hockey spill, for example, gloves, shin guards and chest protectors frequently were found within a few hundred yards of one another (see previous Alerts). If you find a yellow raft, look around for the smallest elements such as daisies, swords, pistols, hats, flippers and spear guns.

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