Hundreds of Nike trainers have been washing up on beaches across the world, from the wind-swept west coast of Ireland to the sunny beaches of the Bahamas.
A network of beachcombers across the world were quick to spread the news as it became clear the sports shoes washing up on their shores could not just be coincidental.
The flotilla was found for thousands of miles around the world, with the first reports originating in the autumn of last year in the Azores of the mid-Atlantic and continuing for months with bounty sighted in Europe and the Caribbean.
In March 2018, the colossal Maersk Shanghai, packed with thousands of shipping containers, lost some of its cargo in rough seas close to the Oregon Inlet off the coast of North Carolina.
The armada of athletic footwear has been discovered across the Atlantic Ocean correlating with the strong ocean currents which will have many of the shoes doing laps for decades before they wash up
A Nike shoe discovered by Tracey Williams on the beach in Cornwall, England, thousands of miles from and months after the accident off the coast of North Carolina, USA
Aircraft were able to recover nine containers, according to the BBC, but the US Coast Guard reported the loss of more than 70 containers.
The largest shipping containers are able to hold a whopping 26 tonnes – which would equate to 29,000 pairs of sneakers.
In addition to the Azores, the footwear fleet bearing Nike’s iconic swoosh has been discovered in England, Ireland, the Channel Islands, Orkney, France, Bermuda and the Bahamas.
Although Nike has not commented, the arrangement of their athletic armada across the world correlates with the Atlantic currents.
The Gulf Stream flows northwest from North Carolina to Europe and swoops southeast past Spain, with the Canary Current pushing missing cargo past Africa and laterally to the Caribbean via the North Equatorial Current.
Seven months after the discovery of sneakers in the Azores, Tracey Williams from Cornwall, said she began noticing the trend on her local beaches.
She told the BBC: ‘Beach cleaners or beach-combers tend to network, so if a certain item is washing up, we quickly find out about it and we’re then on the lookout.’
As well as the Nike branded shoes, other brands including Triangle and Great Wold Lodge footwear have turned up, though to have also fallen from the Maersk Shanghai
Tracey Williams, who discovered shoes on the beach in Cornwall, said: ‘Beach cleaners or beach-combers tend to network, so if a certain item is washing up, we quickly find out about it and we’re then on the lookout’
Liam McNamara, from County Clare, on the west of Ireland, told the broadcaster he has recovered ‘well over 100’ shoes and says he is certain they came from the Maersk Shanghai.
Zodiac Maritime – the vessel’s operator – did not confirm with the BBC which cargo had been lost, although Triangle and Great Wold Lodge footwear has also washed up alongside the Nike shoes.
Lauren Eyles, from the Maritime Conservation Society, believes the lost shoes – which are packed with micro-plastics – will have a detrimental impact on wildlife, with around 10million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean every year.
A Newquay beach cleaner told the BBC: ‘It would be good if companies could be more open about cargo spills – if they could put their hands up and say: “Yes there’s been an incident.”‘
Meanwhile the World Shipping Council puts estimates of lost containers globally at 1,000 each year, but oceanographers say this could be a severe underestimation of up to 10,000 lost at sea.
One of the issues is that shipping companies are only required to report lost containers that are hazardous to the environment – which is limited to obviously harmful substances like corrosive and toxic chemicals.
The largest shipping containers are able to hold a whopping 26 tonnes – which would equate to 29,000 pairs of sneakers (file photo of the Maersk Binta in the Bosphorus)
Dr Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who assisted Nike with a shipping container spillage in the 1990s, said many thousands of pairs of trainers are likely to be do laps in the powerful North Atlantic currents for decades.
He also described a fascinating phenomenon whereby left and right shoes will transit differently based on their shape, with beaches being filled with left and others with right-footed trainers.
In 2018, the UN’s International Maritime Organization introduced an action plan to address plastic litter from ships and stated they would consider a compulsory mechanism for the declaration of lost containers.