I thought of Gotham’s tagline—Stories. Everywhere.—while reading a magazine article about shipping containers that get lost at sea.
Many of the products that we procure come to us via containers shipped across the world’s waters to a port somewhere. Every day, about 6,000 of these ships are at sea, bringing us all those clothes and toys and housewares that we so crave. The products travel in massive containers on gargantuan ships manned by small crews. Which explains why so many of those containers often tumble off the ships.
(In 1965, a young man traveled by shipping container, as a stowaway, from Australia to England because he couldn’t afford the airfare; he didn’t go overboard but almost paid with his life, which you can read about in his memoir The Crate Escape.)
These lost items from shipping containers contribute to the pollution choking our oceans, and the problem is worsening as global warming creates higher winds and bigger storms, the cause of most container-overboard accidents.
In 1997, a rogue wave caused 62 containers to topple overboard near the western coast of England, including almost 5 million Lego pieces, which is interesting because the shipping containers very much resemble Lego pieces.
Eric Carle was aware of this whole phenomenon when he wrote and illustrated the children’s picture book 10 Little Rubber Ducks. Some may see it as a simple counting book, but, well, it’s so much more.
A box with 10 little ducks tumbles off a ship and the ducks float their separate ways. One drifts west where a dolphin jumps over it, one drifts right where a turtle glides past it, and so on. Their journeys are enhanced by Carle’s collage artwork recognized by children everywhere.
We follow the 10th duck as the vast water and sky turn inky dark. We sense the duck is scared, but these ducks are realistically inanimate, nothing more than molded plastic. And yet we feel the duck might be relieved when, the next morning, it meets a mother duck and her ducklings and begins to drift along in their company.
Night falls again and the rubber duck stays with the duck family. The mother says quack, the other ducklings answer with quack and then…the lost rubber duck gives a squeak.
Was that random chance? Or did this odyssey somehow breathe life into the duck? I can’t stop wondering.
If you’re feeling imaginative, perhaps you can conjure a story that springs from shipping containers. Go!