Nearly two decades ago, a massive wave struck the Tokio Express, a container ship that had nearly 5 million Legos onboard. The colorful toy building blocks poured into the ocean. Today, they are still washing up on shores in England.
Tracey Williams and her children first happened upon the Tokio Express Legos in the late 1990s. Since then, she’s created a Facebook page called — Lego Lost At Sea — where other collectors show off their findings.
Williams, who lives in Cornwall, tells NPR’s Scott Simon that among the many small, colorful and ironically nautical-themed Lego bits are flowers, swords, life vests, scuba tanks and even Lego octopi.
Williams says she started the page to document the washed up Legos because she was fascinated that they were still washing up after so many years.
“I thought it would be quite interesting, from a scientific point of view, to monitor where it was all turning up, what was turning up and in what quantities and who found it,” Williams says.
Based on submissions to the Facebook page, the Lego pieces have reportedly washed up in several areas of England and Ireland, Williams says. She says she has even had reports that pieces have allegedly been found in Holland and as far as Australia, though she hasn’t been able to verify those yet.
“Oceanographers say it is perfectly feasible after 17 years that this Lego could have gone around the world,” she says.
Williams says that while it is fun to find these Legos on beaches far and wide, what this incident does is highlight the issue of marine debris. As part of a beach cleanup group, she says there many cargo spills every year and debris is often found from those spills for years to come.