They are the survivors of a consignment of 29,000 bath toys washed overboard from a container ship in 1992 that have since floated across the ocean, round the United States, through the Arctic and past Greenland.
Most of the remnants of the fading flotilla are now heading down the eastern seaboard of the United States, although a breakaway group has been spotted heading for Britain, the company that made the ducks said on Friday.
“In parts of the world they have actually become cult collectors’ items.”
-Clive Wooster, rubber duck manufacturer
“We hope people will have fun looking for them and look forward to tracking them when they finally come ashore,” Clive Wooster of The First Years company said.
“These amazing little ducks are becoming much sought after. In parts of the world they have actually become cult collectors’ items,” he added.
The US-based company is offering a reward of $100 in savings bonds to anyone who finds a duck in New England – with the monetary equivalent in Canada and Iceland – but only a signed certificate to the finders of the first 250 in Britain.
The ducks also carry a more valuable reward: they illustrate the indestructible nature of seagoing rubbish. Even punishing waves or freezing cold can’t destroy man-made debris that is lost or tossed at sea.
Scientists have used ducks already found by beachcombers in Alaska and elsewhere to predict their travels and better understand ocean currents and sea patterns.
Computer simulations show some ducks will have floated thousands of miles across the Pacific, hitching a ride on slow-moving ice around the North Pole before making it to the Atlantic.