Imagine walking down a beach and then suddenly seeing thousands of mismatched pairs of shoes – Nike shoes – washed up ashore. This actually happened in November 1990 along Oregon’s coast. Six months earlier, in May 1990, a storm struck a carrier en-route to the United States from Korea. While the ship survived, its cargo went overboard. Not a sole was saved. Tens of thousands of pairs of shoes ended up in the water, slowly bobbing their way across the Pacific Ocean, until they washed ashore to the delight and surprise of beachcombers who quickly gathered them up and even tried matching up pairs and selling them.
Through this accident, scientists were able to gather important data by plotting the pathways of the shoes using a computer program called Ocean Surface Current Simulations (OSCURS). The numerical model combined information on large-scale ocean currents as well as wind speed and direction, revealing new details on the mechanics of currents. Shoes and serendipity. Sometimes that’s how science works.
Read more about ocean currents in this VisionLearning module I had the pleasure of co-authoring (Egger, A.E., Pena, U.H., and Pope, E., “Ocean Currents” Visionlearning Vol. EAS-3 (7), 2022) here.
It’s written for a high school audience, complete with comprehension checks, glossary, and more resources to explore about ocean currents. Please feel free to share! More of these types of modules are to come in the next year!