First debris from Japanese earthquake/tsunami reaches US West Coast

The first piece of debris that could be identified as washing up on the West Coast from the March 11 tsunami in Japan — a large black float — was found on a Neah Bay beach two weeks ago, Seattle oceanographers Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham said Tuesday night.

Since then, the two researchers, known as DriftBusters Inc. — who have used flotsam to track wind and water currents in the Pacific since 1970 — have learned that the black, 55-gallon drum-sized floats also have been found on Vancouver Island.

Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham spoke to more than 100 people at Peninsula College and brought the float with them, along with examples of other items that may be showing up on beaches in the next year.

Tons of debris washed out to sea when a tsunami struck northern Japan after a massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake March 11.

About a quarter of the 100 million tons of debris from Japan is expected to make landfall on beaches from southern Alaska to California, possibly in volumes large enough to clog ports, Ebbesmeyer said.

“All debris should be treated with a great reverence and respect,” he said.

Families in Japan are waiting to hear of any items that may have been associated with their loved ones and may travel to the U.S. to meet those who found these mementos, he added.

Items that wash up may include portions of houses, boats, ships, furniture, portions of cars and just about anything else that floats, he said.

The rafts of debris include whole houses which may still contain many personal items, and the Japanese are known for storing important personal mementos in walls, Ebbesmeyer said.

Even the smallest of traceable items may be the only thing associated with one of those people who were lost during the disaster, he said.

Read the full story here.

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