With a Side of Noodles
by Curtis C. Ebbesmeyer
Three days packed with
radio and newspaper interviews — BBC Scotland; BBC London;
Canadian Broadcasting Company, Victoria; Melbourne radio, Australia;
National Public Radio (Rewind); Chicago radio, Illinois; Anchorage
Daily News (front page); Seattle Times (front page); San Francisco
Chronicle; Portland Oregonian — to mention a few.
How’d this happen? All because of two chrome-detailed, two-tone
blue and white Nikes. In January 2003, slow beachcombing along
Washington abruptly halted. “ Curt, I found these two Nike
shoes a week apart on January 9&16, 2003,” emailed John
Anderson of Forks, Washington. “ Both were found on Queets’ beaches.
One’s size 10.5 and the other’s 8.5. Both are lefts.“
Knowing that unworn footwear often signals a container spill,
I immediately sought details. “These are blue & white
Nike EZW mens’ basketball shoes. The numbers are 306050 101
00, under bar code 10-30-02 2462071 (size 10.5), 2462067 (size
8.5), Pat. US 4936029*5042176* . On the top of tongue is ‘Made
in Indonesia 021012 IY.”
The Nikes of Queets. John Anderson found these
EZW Nikes in early- January 2003. See page 2 for enlargement.
(Steven Anderson photo)
John sent the first report of new Nikes. Just in time for the
March beachcomber fairs in nearby Ocean Shores and Grayland. Six
numbers were dates – 021012 – indicating the Nikes
were recently lost. The first four revealed that Nike ordered the
footwear in October (10) 2002, and the last two that the Indonesian
factory filled Nike’s order in December (12).
Next, I emailed Nike headquarters. “Curt, you have great
timing. We were just talking about you,” emailed Dave Newman,
Nike Cargo Safety & Claims, Regional Support Services & Sustainable
Logistics, Beaverton, Oregon. “ Three containers went overboard
in December 2002 off the northern California coast. David and I
will see if we can pinpoint the date and location.” I didn’t
have long to wait. On February 6, 2003, Nike’s Herb Hedges
relayed radio traffic concerning ten containers overboard 30-
40 miles off Cape Mendocino, California. (explanations in [ ] to nautical
terms): “URGENT. Vessel proceeding LSATAC in heavy, confused swell
with approximate height 8-9 meters [26-30 feet; LSA-TAC indicates the
vessel was sailing from Los Angeles, California, to Tacoma, Washington].
Wind approximately 30-40 knots on the port quarter. Departure GM was
6.0 meters [vessel’s center of grav-ity]. Both stabilizers were
deployed. Speed approximately 19 knots. At 2018 LT [6:18 p.m. local time] – 0418
UTC [Universal Time Coordinates] December 15th, vessel took two very
heavy rolls, approximately 20 degrees to each side very fast, which caused
10 containers to fall overboard and 6 others to capsize. Position: 39°53’N,
124°44’W. U.S. Coast Guard Humbolt Bay Group informed on VHF
radio immediately after incident. All boxes loaded in Bay 66, port side
Rows 06 to 16 in KAO for TAC discharge. Rows 4-15 were loaded with LSA
“Generally, 5,500 pair [11,000
individual shoes] fit in a standard 40-foot ocean container,” wrote
Dave. “So, the three overboard containers held approximately
With Dave’s email and John’s shoe report, I approachedthe
media. I’d been working with Doug O’Harra, science
writer for the Anchorage Daily News (ADN), tracking the stricken
fishing vessel Genei Maru across the North Pacific Ocean. As a
followup, I emailed Doug hoping ADN readers might report Nikes.
Next thing I knew, ADN ran the story beneath a front page banner
headline. That Sunday
(February 23), the Associated Press selected the ADN account as its daily
feature. Immediately, the worldwide media picked up the AP story.
But wait! There’s more! Along with the Nikes, 6- inch diameter
tin cans washed ashore. At first, John thought they contained coffee. “Chow
mein noodles! Here’s the serial numbers: top, 29MN4; side,
W50225618036– under that is 300343. Yes, they float. I found
them down the beach from the shoes. I think they were lost at the
same time as the Nikes.” At the Alert booth during the Beachcombers
Fun Fair (1-2 March), we munched on the still-fresh and tasty month-old
noodles. If a single 40-foot container went overboard, 17,000 cans
of noodles may be drifting with the 33,000 Nikes, about one can
for every two sneakers.
“Nikes drift, chop, chop!” I quipped to Jim Ingraham.
In the week after the media blitz, seven beachcombers reported
14 Nikes strewn along Washington, Vancouver Island and the Queen
Charlotte Islands. As to Nike speed, within 72 days after the containers
went overboard, the flotsam footwear dispersed 850 nautical miles
from northern California to Rose Spit at the northern end of the
Queen Charlottes. That’s 360 miles per month!
There’s a hitch in all this. Nike forgot to tie the shoelaces,
so you’ll have to find the mates. Pam Brown found a pair
matching with half a size! The effort pays off ‘cause these
Nikes have drifted only 1-3 months. All 33,000 of these $100 sneakers
are wearable! After the great spill of 80,000 Nikes in 1990, for
example, despite a year in sea water, those too remained wearable.
You can hardly tell these new Nikes have been adrift for months!