In 2012, Tracy Williams was walking along a beach near her home in Newquay, a town on the north coast of Cornwall, England, when she stumbled upon a curious block of what appeared to be rubber. Engraved across the front was a word she'd never before seen: “Tjipetir.”
Intrigued, she took to the internet to share her find, and ended up connecting with other people from Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands who’d also found Tjipetir blocks at their local beaches.
What was going on?
Williams and UK authorities did some investigating and discovered the blocks were most likely not rubber at all, but gutta-percha — gum from a tree native to Malaysia. The material, once used to make items like golf balls, picture frames and jewelry, was produced by a rubber plantation in West Java, Indonesia named, you guessed it, Tjipetir.
There are records of the Titanic carrying these gutta-percha blocks, so it’s conceivable that, after the ship sank, they were dispursed to sea. More likely, the blocks came from the “Miyazaki Maru,” a Japanese liner known to be carrying Tjipleir blocks when it sank during WWI.