Millions of Lego pieces disappeared into the sea in February of 1997, when the container ship Tokio Express was hit by a wave that knocked 62 containers overboard. One of those metal sea trunks was crammed with 5 million Lego pieces bound for New York. Shortly after the cargo was lost, the toys – many of them ironically nautically-themed – began turning up on the Cornish coastline, and they continue to wash up on beaches 17 years later.
"There are stories of kids in the late 1990s having buckets of dragons on the beach, selling them," a local woman named Tracey told the BBC.
Tracy runs a Facebook page tracking the Lego discoveries. She recently received an email from someone in Melbourne who found a flipper which they think could be from the Tokio Express container.
Circling the globe
According to oceanographers, it would take three years for the Lego parts to cross the Atlantic from Cornwall to Florida, so some of the Lego has probably crossed and some has possibly made its way around the world. Since 1997, the pieces could theoretically have drifted 62,000 miles, meaning they could drift up on beaches anywhere in the world.
While it is fun to imagine the toys floating around the world’s oceans for centuries, the plastic pieces are dangerous for wildlife, especially birds.
Lego spokeswoman Emma Owen told the BBC that the Tokio Express incident "was of course very unfortunate, however this had nothing to do with the Lego Group activities".