When the container ship Zim Kingston lost 109 boxes in a storm off the Strait of Juan de Fuca in October 2021, it left behind a present for residents of the Pacific Northwest coast: big, indestructible plastic coolers.
On October 22, 2021, Zim Kingston was loitering at the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, waiting out congestion at the Port of Vancouver. In wave heights of up to 20 feet and sustained winds of up to 40 knots, she began to roll through 35 degrees, and the racking forces on her fully-stacked deck cargo toppled 109 containers into the sea. Lost cargo and plastic debris washed up along Vancouver Island’s shores for months after.
But in addition to the wrecked refrigerators, gym mats, bike helmets and inflatable pink unicorns, the Kingston’s lost containers released something valuable: a total of 1,600 Yeti brand coolers, each worth up to $750 at retail.
For the last year, gently-abraded Yetis have been washing up on the shore from Longbeach to Vancouver Island to Prince of Wales Island, and at least two have been found in Hawaii, according to the Wall Street Journal. (It’s not firmly established whether the Hawaiian finds are connected.)
The coolers are valuable enough that they have set off minor scavenger hunts in isolated areas of the Alaskan coastline where their presence has been reported. One bush pilot has collected thousands of dollars’ worth of coolers – 23 in total – for himself and his friends.
Combed a few on the Longbeach peninsula, WA pic.twitter.com/06Xp0NSCZT
— Spoonie (@spoonie2012) September 21, 2022
Only four containers from Zim Kingston were ever recovered, and others remain out at sea, waiting to potentially release more treasures – or pollutants, like styrofoam packing material. “This is going to be a slow-moving disaster for the coastline for many years to come,” said Alys Hoyland of the Surfrider Foundation’s Tofino branch, speaking to the Vancouver Sun earlier this year.