15 things that have gone rogue at sea


It was reported yesterday (10 August) that 2 giant pieces of pipe, measuring 1,574ft (480m), have washed up on the beach at Winterton and Sea Palling in Norfolk. Eleven sections of the 8ft (2.4m) diameter plastic pipe were being towed to Algeria when they broke free, nine sections are still at sea.

New Zealand’s Southern Ocean wave buoy has been drifting since the end of July after its mooring failed under extreme wave conditions. It is continuing to report back wave heights as it journeys across the ocean towards Chile.

Over the years there have been many objects that have been lost at sea, sometimes reappearing thousands of miles away, many years later. These unlikely seafaring fugitives offer an insight to the vast ocean currents that sweep the globe.

Here are some of the more unusual objects that have gone rogue at sea, in numbers:

WW1 German U-boat – in 1919 the U-118 was being towed through the English Channel towards Scapa Flow to be scrapped when it broke its towlines in a storm. The U-boat ran aground on the beach at Hastings, East Sussex. Failed attempts to re-float the vessel and break it apart (using canons!) meant the vessel remained on the beach for months, becoming a tourist attraction. It was broken apart, in situ, later that year.

40ft giant fender - An enormous Yokahama fender washed up at Thornham, on the Norfolk coast in 2016. The fender broke free from its moorings on an Oil platform in Norwegian waters during a gale.

57 WW2 love letters – 57 love letters written between 1942 and 1947 were discovered washed up on a New Jersey beach after Hurricane Sandy’s destruction swept them down a river and out into the Atlantic in 2012.

60ft racing yacht - Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss yacht was discovered in Patagonia, 10 years after, and several thousand kilometres from where the sailor abandoned it in 2006.

Two 128m barges – The dumb barges, named Dar1 and Dar 2, ran aground near Cape Vidal, South Africa. After being successfully re-floated they were declared total losses by the insurers and they were subsequently scuttled and turned into artificial reefs.

328ft Russian cruise ship - the Lyubov Orlova was being towed from Canada to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped when the towline snapped and it broke free in Feb 2012. It was last seen adrift off the coast of Newfoundland on February 4, 2013. It is believed the vessel has now sunk.

000s of ghost fishing nets – each year thousands of tonnes of fishing nets are lost, dumped or abandoned. Due to the nature of the materials used to produce these types of gear, they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even for centuries.

Thousands of bags of Doritos – A container filled with thousands of bags of Doritos was lost over board near the coast of North Carolina in 2006. After drifting south for several days in the Atlantic, the container veered landward releasing its Dorito contents on the beach much to the delight of the locals who promptly helped to remove the intact bags of snacks.

4,000 miles travelled by part of a rocket – a piece of the Space X Falcon 9 Rocket that exploded after take-off travelled across the Atlantic from Florida arriving on Tresco Beach, Cornwall in 2015.

17,000 tonne drilling platform - The Transocean Winner semi-submersible drilling rig ran aground after being blown ashore by heavy storms during a towing operation off Scotland's western Isle of Lewis in 2016.

28,000 plastic ducks - In 1992, a shipping container carrying the plastic bath toys fell overboard on its way from Hong Kong to the United States. Since then the toys have washed up on the shores of Hawaii, Alaska, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest; others have been found frozen in Arctic ice. Some have made their way as far as Scotland and Newfoundland in the Atlantic. 2,000 of them still circulate in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.

80,000 pairs of Nike trainers - the shoes fell from the cargo ship P&O Nedlloyd Auckland in the Northeastern Pacific, in May 1990. The first pairs were found six months later on the shores between British Columbia and Oregon, some are still swimming through the Pacific.

4.8 million Lego pieces – the plastic toy parts fell overboard from the Tokio Express container ship in a storm off Land's End on 13 February 1997. Since then, Lego has been found on many Cornish beaches, with some appearing 300 miles away on Brighton beach, East Sussex.

£50 million of cocaine – holdalls containing around 360kg of cocaine were found washed up on Hopton Beach near Great Yarmouth in 2017.

Millions of plastic pieces – there a millions of pieces of plastic waste a drift in the ocean. The plasticadrift.org website provides an animation of the likely path and destination of floating debris over a ten year period into the future.


Ghost fishing nets 
Rubber Ducks
Russian cruise ship 
Drilling platform 
WW1 U-boat
WW2 love letters
Racing yacht 
Nike Trainers


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Tracey Hewett

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