Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea

Donovan Hohn

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea

When Donovan Hohn first heard the remarkable story of how 28,904 bath toys spilled into the Pacific en route to the US from China and have been washing up along beaches throughout the world ever since, he decided to find out more and assumed he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to some beachcombers and read up on Arctic science and geography. ‘But questions can be like oceans currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away.’ Setting out on a series of journeys to track the renegade rubber ducks, Moby-Duck is an adventure into the heart of the sea through science, myth, the global economy and some of the worst weather imaginable, and the story of an accidental odyssey which pulled Hohn into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring terrain of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy domain of Chinese toy factories. 3.9 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Science & Nature, Travel
Format Hardback
Pages 416
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication February 2012
ISBN 978-1908526007
Publisher Union Books
 

When Donovan Hohn first heard the remarkable story of how 28,904 bath toys spilled into the Pacific en route to the US from China and have been washing up along beaches throughout the world ever since, he decided to find out more and assumed he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to some beachcombers and read up on Arctic science and geography. ‘But questions can be like oceans currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away.’ Setting out on a series of journeys to track the renegade rubber ducks, Moby-Duck is an adventure into the heart of the sea through science, myth, the global economy and some of the worst weather imaginable, and the story of an accidental odyssey which pulled Hohn into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring terrain of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy domain of Chinese toy factories.

Reviews

The Financial Times

Carl Wilkinson

Hohn does justice to the scope and magnitude of his subject, while carrying the reader with him on his epic voyage of discovery rather than presenting it ready-packaged. “There are more consequences to a shipwreck than the underwriters notice,” wrote Thoreau. Moby-Duck proves the point magnificently.

17/02/2012

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The New York Times

Elizabeth Royte

Dazzling … “Moby-Duck” succeeds as harebrained adventure, as a cautionary environmental tale, as a deconstruction of consumer demand, and as a meditation on wilderness and imagination ... Hohn seems to have it all: deep intelligence, a strikingly original voice, humility and a hunger to suss out everything a yellow duck may literally or metaphorically touch.

04/03/2011

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The Times

Tom Whipple

Moby-Duck is an unusual book. It has too much about oceanography and plastic production to be a travel book. It has too much of the author quacking to be a science book. Only loosely structured, it should not really work. The only reason that it does is because Hohn is an exceptional writer.

18/02/2012

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The New York Times

Janet Maslin

[An] adventurous, inquisitive and brightly illuminating book … Here’s an important point about Mr. Hohn’s many and varied subsequent travels and observations: He was not one of those journalists who dream up make-work projects and seek out exploits that can be turned into amusing reading. “Moby-Duck” makes him sound genuinely open-minded, inquisitive and eager to expand his own understanding of the freakish event on which he’d grown fixated. And he was eager to enhance his secondhand ideas about how the world works with firsthand images and experiences, which he eagerly incorporates into “Moby-Duck.”

20/02/2011

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The Observer

Alexander Larman

… Hohn tells with brio and wit the story of the indestructability of mass-produced ephemera and the ecological damage it causes … As his slick writing suggests, Hohn has a background in magazine journalism, and Moby-Duck began life as articles in Harper's Magazine and other titles. Yet there's a warmth here that universalises his quest, as he frets about not seeing his wife and newborn son.

26/02/2012

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The Guardian

Sam Leith

It won't be for everyone: it's a baggy and structureless piece of work, and some will find the whimsy wearing. I liked it. At its best it is sublime, and if at its worst it's pseudy, it is at least self-mockingly pseudy.

31/03/2012

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The Sunday Times

James McConnachie

It sometimes feels like a magazine feature that has got out of hand, but it is intimate, intrepid and often shocking … Oddly, Hohn’s story acquires real depth when he investigates rubber ducks themselves. Exploring why they are so iconic, he digs up a 1942 US-government-issued childcare manual, which advises parents at bath-time to “see to it that he has a toy to play with and he will not need to use his body as a plaything”. Rubber ducks, it seems, were once the ultimate in hygienic American fun. It will be hard to look at them in the same way again. It will be hard to see the ocean the same way, either.

19/02/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Tim Ecott

Rather than being witty, the author’s self-regarding style becomes a distraction from an intrinsically interesting topic ... Moby-Duck should have been a shorter book, and more scrupulously edited.

24/02/2012

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