OBX flip flops

Outer Banks flip flops found on a beach in Ireland. 

HATTERAS ISLAND, N.C.

Flip-flops with "Outer Banks" stamped across them are washing ashore in Europe after traveling a year across the sea.

Beachcombers are posting on social media pages photos of the footwear made by Just Speed, Nike and others found on beaches in France, England and Ireland. They are encrusted with barnacles and a little chewed, but otherwise looking unworn.

Gilbert Mellaza found one this month on a beach in Le Conquet, France, he said in an email. He saw several of them scattered on the beach.

Liam MacNamara of Ireland has found nine Outer Banks items in Ireland including flip-flops, he said by Facebook message.

The flip-flop flotsam almost certainly came from among more than 70 containers that fell overboard off Oregon Inlet from the cargo ship Maersk Shanghai during a March 2018 storm.

Avshalom Yehezkiel, an owner of Just Speed, confirmed Tuesday from Florida the company lost two containers during that storm.

The same brand of Outer Banks flip-flops found in Europe are for sale at the Super Wings stores on the Outer Banks, said Heather Cremia, who scours local beaches almost daily. She is part of a collection of beachcombers around the world who follow each other's findings.

"This is the first time I've seen it with a direct connection to the Outer Banks," she said.

She calls herself a beach cleaner rather than comber. She picks up debris while her husband surfs.

"You never know what's going to wash up," she said.

The timing of floating a year on ocean currents from the North Carolina coast matches well with other debris lost about the same time and place, said Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a retired oceanographer who tracks and reports on ocean debris.

"My information shows them stranding in North Carolina, Bermuda, Ireland and Cornwall," he said in a email.

Ebbesmeyer keeps a website and writes a newsletter about trash found on beaches.

"Floating debris has become a permanent feature of the world's oceans," he says on his website. "This junk takes a terrible environmental toll, especially on marine birds and mammals."

But the nearly indestructible plastic can last for decades and provides a resource for tracking ocean currents, he said.

Ebbesmeyer's research has been widely reported including that on rubber ducks. In 1992, containers with 29,000 bathtub toys fell overboard from a ship bound from Hong Kong to the United States. Ten months later plastic ducks and other animals washed ashore near Sitka, Alaska. They were still turning up nearly 20 years later, carried on ocean currents to places such as South America and Australia.

The Gulf Stream sweeps upward past Hatteras traveling some 5 miles per hour and turns eastward toward Europe.

Good cruising speed for Outer Banks flip-flops.

Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

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