In 1997, a freak accident struck a ship off Cornwall, sweeping it back and forth and dislodging 62 shipping containers. One of them was full of LEGO, and has created a beautiful and strange place where beachcombers dig out LEGO pieces from the sand.
The BBC just ran a long piece about the LEGO beaches of Cornwall and it’s fascinating in how odd it is; it’s the kind of thing a novelist would make up, yet it’s completely true. Weirdly, most of the LEGO lost in the drink was nautically themed. In fairly short order, even though it was at the bottom of the ocean, the LEGO began washing up on nearby beaches, ranging as far as Ireland and Wales. It’s become common for kids to sort through the piles and sell the cooler stuff to tourists.
Equally strange, none of it seems to have washed up anywhere else, and nobody’s really quite sure why. In theory, there are more than three million LEGO in the water and at least some of them should have drifted elsewhere, but aside from one or two flippers in Australia, nothing.
Needless to say, it’s not all giggles; LEGO is still plastic, and thus the LEGO on the beaches is technically litter. Surprisingly, these kinds of disasters, with shipping containers falling into the ocean, happen all the time. Cigarette lighters still turn up from a spill which occurred more than two decades ago.
Still, even the environmentalists cleaning up the beach admit that it’s kind of cool to bend down, start loading debris into a bag, and discover some LEGO. If you’d like to see how the clean-up/collectible hunt is going, you can follow the unofficial fan page on Facebook.