IN the weird world of strange phenomena, one occasionally hears of things appearing in places where they shouldn’t.
Some years ago, for example, a number of clearly manufactured artefacts were found nestling comfortably in a coal seam at the now-defunct Whitburn Colliery.
They should not have been there, but they were.
Such anomalies are known as ooparts, an acronym for “out of place artefacts”, and one of the strangest cases concerning them is still going on to this day – as it has been for the last 18 years – and shows no signs of slowing down.
Actually, the mystery has been solved, but the story is so intriguing I just have to relate it here for those who have not heard it.
Confused? Bear with me, and all will become clear.
In 1998, on the sands of the Cornish coast, people started to find things.
They were tiny things, fashioned from plastic, and they all had an aquatic theme: Plastic flippers, plastic spear guns, plastic snorkels, plastic fish, plastic dragons ... and there were, quite literally, millions of them.
Within a short while, the same miniature artefacts were appearing on beaches in Wales – again, in the tens of thousands.
Some found their way to the Irish coast, and others showed up as far away as Port Philip Bay, Australia.
Now almost as soon as these little plastic miniatures started to appear, they were identified as belonging to themed building-block kits produced by the Lego company.
The mystery wasn’t so much what they were, then, but rather what on earth millions of them were doing turning up on beaches on both sides of the equator.
To answer this, we need to go back to the evening of February 13, 1997.
On the night in question, the Japanese container ship Tokio Express was chugging through the rather tempestuous seas off the coast of Cornwall.
With very little warning, a wave of truly gargantuan crashed into the ship, tilting it 60º to starboard and then 40º to port.
Unfortunately, this was enough to dislodge 62 containers anchored to its deck.
One of those containers contained millions of Lego blocks, and when it burst open upon hitting the ocean floor, its cargo was liberated and free to embark upon a tide-driven journey to beaches near and far.
The number of pieces was phenomenal, including no less than 353,264 plastic flowers, 418,000 diving flippers, 4,200 octopus, 13,000 spear guns, 26,600 life preservers and 33,941 dragons, etc. etc.
“It was just surreal,” said one beachcomber. “I mean, as far as you could see the beach was just littered with teeny-weeny pirate swords and diving flippers. It looked like a Salvador Dali painting.”
Another witness said: “I could just see harpoons everywhere ... thousands of miniature harpoons.
“I think what freaked me out was the fact that all the bits had a nautical connection and they were coming out of the sea.”
The mystery has been compounded by the fact that hundreds of brightly-coloured wristwatches have now started to appear, although they don’t appear on any of the ship’s manifests.
Mind you, we only have three manifests from the 62 containers, so it’s quite possible another one containing the watches has just broken open.
As the contents of most of the containers is still a mystery, and not all of them have yet broken open, we can only wonder what little objects of desire will be cast upon our beaches in the future.
Tin whistles? Garlic crushers? Whoopee cushions? Dream on, and get the latest info HERE.
* Seen something strange? Tell Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org