Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Donovan Hohn

Donovan Hohn's new book is 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.

From his Q & A at Publishers Weekly:

When did your interest in the lost rubber ducks become an obsession?

Like most obsessions I suppose, mine grew gradually and was kindled by frustration. It seemed so incredible, that I wanted to imagine it with as much verisimilitude as I could muster. When and where did the toys fall overboard? Where did they go, and why? And when I first heard the story, I was about to become a father. Childhood was much on my mind, and in the bestiary of American childhood, there is no creature more iconic than the yellow rubber duckie. I also was preparing to teach Moby-Dick. The incongruity of those yellow icons of childhood, made in China for the bathtubs of America, out there in Melville's sublimely inhuman wilderness of water seemed a kind of riddle.

What were the environmental issues you stumbled upon?

The trail of the toys soon led me to what has become colloquially known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. When I first heard of it, the Garbage Patch sounded fabulous, like something out of Jules Verne, a floating junkyard twice the size of Texas. The convergent currents north of Hawaii collect flotsam and jetsam, much of which these days is plastic, and unlike the wooden or metal or rubber flotsam and jetsam of the past, plastic can persist at sea for centuries. Eventually, sunlight breaks it down into fragments, but those fragments remain, flowing through the water column like dust. The currents there deliver more than 20 tons of plastic debris every year.

What was the most frightening moment of your quest?

I'm terrified of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue