Is The East Australian Current Real? The 'Finding Nemo' Freeway Has Some Basis In Reality
Pixar has cranked out a ton of animated classics over the past two decades, a number of which have earned sequels. Monsters Inc. spawned Monsters University, Cars launched Cars 2 and has a third movie in the works, and Toy Story is gunning for a tetralogy with Toy Story 4 due out in 2018. But the next Pixar great to debut a sequel will be 2003's Finding Nemo, whose sequel Finding Dory hits theaters on June 17. The new film has brought with it a renewed interest in the original, leading to all sorts of long-unanswered questions, one of which is: Is the East Australian Current real?
In case it's been a while since you've seen the film and you need a refresher, the East Australian Current, or EAC, essentially functions as a high-speed freeway in the ocean in the movie, and Marlin and Dory are taken on it by Crush the sea turtle as a way for them to quickly get to where they need to go in their quest to find Nemo. The current is depicted as a super-fast gush of water that animals essentially can ride along until they reach their exit, at which point they basically jump off. But does it have any basis in reality?
It actually kind of does. The East Australian Current is a real thing, and it runs south from the Great Barrier Reef down the East coast of Australia just like in the movie. And while it's not quite the warp speed tube that's seen in the film, the current does reach speeds faster than most typical ocean currents in the area, hitting up to seven kilometers per hour. Not exactly the Autobahn, but a decent clip for the South Pacific. And yes, lots of sea creatures really do "hitch a ride" on the current in order to head south in a somewhat similar fashion to what's depicted in the movie.
However, the film's portrayal of the current as a narrow stream in which fish can hop in and out of is pretty far from the truth. In reality, the current is massive, measuring 62 miles wide and nearly a mile deep. In other words, it could fit way more than a few turtles swimming next to each other. The "exits" as seen in the film are also a bit of movie magic, but they are likely influenced by the real current's eddies. At the southern end of the EAC, the current breaks up into numerous eddies, or vortices of terror as Marlin would say, each of which are as wide as the EAC itself. These eddies spin counter-clockwise at speeds of 5 to 10 kilometers per hour, meaning that Dory and Marlin could indeed have gone for quite a spin if they were to get caught in one.
So even though Finding Nemo doesn't nail the science exactly, the film still does a pretty good job of representing the East Australian Current. Not bad for a so-called kids movie.
Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy