The Great Nike Shoe Spill

A flotilla of up to 40,000 Nike shoes has been slowly bobbing around the Pacific Ocean since the spring of 1990. This strange story began on May 27, 1990, when a storm struck the freighter Hansa Carrier, which was en route from Korea to the United States. The ship survived, but its shipment of Nike shoes was washed overboard — not a sole was saved. The incident was forgotten until November of that year, when the shoes began appearing along the shores of Oregon. Large hiking boots, high-tops and other styles began to bob landward, at first in ones and twos, then in scores, and eventually by the thousands. Within weeks, beachcombers had retrieved some of the shoes and held swap-meets at which they exchanged right and left shoes, then resold them in pairs. Today, due to the shoes’ unique serial numbers, the spill is aiding oceanographers in their studies of ocean currents, with shoes still being discovered daily in distant locations. Nike has always refrained from exploiting this potential marketing bonanza. When asked why, one company manager replied, “Floating on the water is not a sports attribute we wish to endorse.”