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Tracey Williams/Lego Lost At Sea
Tracey Williams/Lego Lost At Sea

18 Years After a Spill Into the Ocean, LEGO Pieces Still Wash Ashore

Tracey Williams/Lego Lost At Sea
Tracey Williams/Lego Lost At Sea

On February 13, 1997, 20 miles off the coast of Cornwall, UK, the container ship Tokio Express was hit with a massive wave. Sixty-two of the containers it was carrying were knocked overboard. The contents of 61 of those containers are either not known or too uninteresting to be publicized—but one of them held 4.8 million LEGO pieces, which have been washing up on Cornish beaches ever since.

An issue of Beachcombers' Alert from later that same year details the breakdown (by item) of the different LEGO pieces lost; in a weird coincidence, many of them happened to be nautically themed. There were, for example, 26,600 life preservers; 418,000 diver flippers in pairs of black, blue or red; 13,000 red or yellow spear guns; and 4200 black octopuses.

Seventeen yeas after the initial spill, beach goers are still finding these now well-worn LEGO pieces, but these days they have to hunt for them. "There's stories of kids in the late 1990s having buckets of dragons on the beach, selling them," Tracey Williams told the BBC earlier this year. She runs a Facebook group that documents the discoveries of these formerly lost-at-sea LEGOs by dedicated beachcombers. Because of their initial rarity, the octopus pieces have become a prize find amongst these treasure hunters; a recent post on the Facebook page depicts the visible, visceral excitement of the most recent discovery of one of the 4200.

American oceanographer and fellow beachcomber Curtis Ebbesmeyer estimates that since the spill, pieces could have floated some 62,000 miles—several times greater than the circumference of the equator, 24,000 miles. This means that ostensibly they could be anywhere, but thus far only finds in Cromwell have been confirmed.

"I go to beachcombing events in Florida and they show me Lego—but it's the wrong kind," he told the BBC. "It's all local stuff kids have left behind."

The pieces that are still being found look perhaps a little bit worse for the wear but have held up remarkably well after all these years at sea. The resilience of plastic is bad news for the environment—and along with treasure hunters, rogue LEGO pieces are sought after by beach clean-up groups—but it also means there will be collectors combing the sands for tiny octopuses and dragons until all 4,756,940 pieces are accounted for.

All photos courtesy of Tracey Williams/Lego Lost At Sea.

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presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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fun
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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