Emmitt Anderson, a 12-year-old who went beachcombing at Sealion Cove, Alaska, has found a 33-year-old red plastic drift card, which was originally released in the Behring Sea.
The card was dropped into the ocean, one of thousands put into the Behring Sea, in order to find out where oil would go if there was ever a spill in that area.
According to The Daily Mail, the cards were dropped into the ocean by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the late 1970s.
The card looks relatively unscathed, a testament to how long plastic can take to biodegrade.
Emmitt told the Daily Sentinel that :
“We never know what we’re going to find. I just like to find stuff. When I don’t find stuff I’m not very happy.”
Understandably, the 12-year-old Alaskan was very excited about the find, although at first reluctant to notify the NOAA, who stamped on the card that the reward for notifying them would be $1.
The Sentinel states that the boy’s father, Steve Andersen, told the paper:
“He didn’t want to do it…he thought he was going to lose it.”
It turns out Emmitt Andersen had nothing to fear, as the NOAA department working on the card data was disbanded after their funding was depleted. However, a NOAA official in Washington was able to point them to oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who inherited all of the data for the project.
Ebbesmeyer stated that when he received the Andersen’s call:
“I knew exactly what notebook to look in. This particular release was made on the way up to the Bering Sea. It’s a great find…the truth is, it’s impossible to know exactly where it went (before it was found).”
MSNBC reports that Ebbesmeyer told them how Andersen’s drift card was likely caught in the Aleut gyre, a circulating ocean current that goes 8,000 miles, and takes three years to follow. The oceanographer further stated:
“The question is how many times did it go around? I think it’s likely it went around once, it could have gone round 11 times. It’s possible it went 88,000 miles. It could have short-circuited the gyre … we’ll never quite know.”