If you’ve ever been to Royal Cornwall Museum, then the year 1997 should ring a bell: a rogue wave took down62 shipping containers from a cargo ship just off the coast of Cornwall. Around five million LEGO pieces were scattered about in the ocean, with many washing up across the southwestern beaches.
England’s southwestern peninsula has been seeing a lot of locals and tourists who are coming across more than just the usual seashells along the beaches of Cornwall. Colourful LEGO pieces of octopuses with twisty tentacles, a variety of scuba gear, boxy whales, and other plastic toy pieces have been washing ashore for 25 years now – indeed a sad reminder of the effects of plastic pollution.
February 13, 1997 is an important day on the calendar of many Cornwall residents as approximately five million LEGO pieces were washed ashore after a rogue wave crashed into a massive cargo ship, the Tokio Express. Interestingly (and ironically), most of the LEGO kits washed ashore were sea creature-themed.
This event came to be known as the Great Lego Spill, and considered the worst toy-related environmental disaster ever recorded. Beachcombers are still busy uncovering the plastic pieces today, according to Live Science.
An exhibition to mark the LEGO pieces washing up on British beaches will grace Royal Cornwall Museum between July 11 and September 23, chronicling more than 25 years of LEGO Lost at Sea.
The exhibition, dubbed Adrift: Lost at Sea, is inspired by Tracey Williams’ 2022 book (Adrift: The Curious Tale of the LEGO Lost at Sea), where the beachcomber details over a quarter-century of LEGO pieces washing ashore in Cornwall.
Lost at Sea may be best described as a story of what disappeared into the ocean, what was learned about it as a result, and it’s currents as well as level of pollution.
Even though no further details are available on the exhibition as of now, it’s safe to assume that there will be plenty of washed up LEGO pieces on display. Again, many of these will be nautical in theme, which certainly makes one think about the irony of it all.
Earlier in 2023, LEGO Lost at Sea snagged an award at the Current Archaeology Awards, 2023, winning ‘Rescue Project of the Year’. Williams was absolutely ecstatic to receive the award, saying that “this one was for the people in Cornwall and beyond who spend a great deal of time picking up plastic from beaches, and the fishermen who catch it in their nets”.
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