It has been hailed as one of the greatest boons to science in history. Well, at least to the research of ocean currents anyway. For the first time, oceanographers were able to calculate with uncanny certainty the actual tracts, currents and eddies of the Pacific Ocean.
The date was May 1990, and sailors and scientists for nearly three centuries had been watching, sailing and tracking the currents of America’s westward ocean. But never had there been such an opportunity to watch it happen.
Seattle-based oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer jumped right on it. Curtis recognized this as an opportunity to confirm a few theories of his own about the Pacific Ocean currents, and to debunk a few others that had been fairly prevalent in the past years. He wasn’t going to miss this chance. And what he found brought him worldwide fame and recognition in the world of science and studying ocean currents.
Well, for one thing, he found the currents didn’t exactly flow the way that most of the charts
indicated. Unlike some of our winds, which seem to have a definite point of origin, often created by a specific weather pattern on the globe, the ocean currents didn’t have that point of origin.
And while we have known for years that the tides are somewhat a result of the moon’s position and orbit, currents are not affected by that same phenomenon. What seemed to originate in Asia was really just a continuation of currents that, earlier in the year, were off the coast of Canada’s British Columbia. But those same currents wound up back off the coast of Japan months later. And often didn’t move at all.
Curtis was able to track these currents on a computer, chart them, and compare them to the known historical data that had been used for years. The results were pretty revealing, and it did change a great many of the ocean navigational charts over the next few years. It has been hailed as a significant piece of work in the world of oceanography.
And you might be asking, how come? We had computers and computer tracking before 1990. Scientists have been watching the seas for years. So what made this so different? Well, it was Nike! Yeah, the shoe company. They did it. Of course they didn’t mean to do it.
But It’s a Little Known Fact that in 1990 the cargo ship Hansa, en route from Korea to America with a load of Nike Trainers shoes, sank. But the shoes floated. And thousands and thousands of Nike Trainers wound up on beaches all over the Pacific.
By tracking the shoes, Curtis was able to confirm many of the known ocean currents and correct many others. Never before had scientists had such a huge amount of material actually in the ocean that could be traced. It was major breakthrough in ocean science, made possible by a bunch of tennis shoes. Sounds like a good thing came out of it, because I’m sure anyone who found those saltwater-soaked shoes didn’t get much use out of them.