We note that debris from the Japanese tsunami continue to find ground on the US West Coast. Knowing the indiscriminate nature of tsunami suction (drawing objects out to sea as the waves retreat) we are not surprised to learn of telephone poles, all manner of cables, wires, metal and trees, stanchions, machinery, automobile components, and you-name-it flotsam being jammed together in island form, relentlessly massaged across the sea in the North Pacific Drift. This drift and discovery saga will continue and stories of unusual artifacts will amaze onlookers for years to come.
There are, however, more serious factors to consider. Marine wildlife can be seriously impacted in many ways (harmful species introduction, physical entrapment, and chemical contamination), and debris rafts are a serious navigational hazard to shipping. Imagine a large vessel moving at 15-20 kts driving into a mass of conglomerated telephone poles, steel cable, wood, and other twisted matted wreckage. We do knot know if this situation would damage the hull's integrity enough to cause sinking, but it could surely foul the propellers and/or steering mechanism. We also recommend that all readers who live in any marine coastal area take time to review our concurrent post on tsunami survival (click here).
What is a tsunami?
large ocean wave: a large destructive ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or another movement of the Earth's surface
[ Late 19th century. < Japanese, "harbor wave" ] Note: this is not a "tidal wave" since that is caused by tidal action and is often repeated as the tide comes and goes.
Some scientists speculate that human remains may be found among the main body of debris as it moves ashore.
If the estimates of debris drift are correct, much worse is yet to come when the main body reaches US shores. We opine that in the end, the March 2011 tsunami may harm the west coast of America more than Japan. No one knows the long range effects of what will be deposited in US waters. There will be costs to cleaning up. Who will pay and how much?
Watch the animation of a 15 year statistical model of tsunami debris movement (click here)
From Oregon Live: If the boat is from Japan, it would be at least the second large chunk of debris swept from that country to hit the Oregon and Washington coasts as a result of the tsunami, which was produced by a 9.2 earthquake. The quake and tsunami together killed thousands in Japan. The tsunami also caused extensive damage to port cities in southern Oregon and northern California. A 66-foot, 132-ton dock that washed up on Agate Beach, near Newport, on June 5 has become a huge tourist attraction become a huge tourist attraction. In the first week after it arrived, more than 12,000 cars were counted in the Agate Beach parking lot.
From The Guardian: They come mostly from ship hulls and the water ships take on as ballast, but also get dumped into bays from home aquariums. The costs quickly mount into the untold billions of dollars. Mitten crabs from China eat baby Dungeness crabs that are one of the region's top commercial fisheries. Spartina, a ropey seaweed from Europe, chokes commercial oyster beds. Shellfish plug the cooling water intakes of power plants. Kelps and tiny shrimp-like creatures change the food web that fish, marine mammals and even humans depend on.
Although the following photo is somewhat dated, it illustrates the sort of debris diversity that continually amazes US West Coast jetsam pickers.
From 2 Wheel Tuesday: Peter Mark stumbled across the washed up Harley as he was riding his quad down the beach. Peter said” ”The door was ripped off it and I could see a motorcycle tire sticking out, So I went closer and looked inside and saw a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The bike was rusty, particularly on the wheels and handlebars, but the logo on the fuel tank was unmistakable.”
The Harley belonged to Ikuo Yokoyama, a resident of the town of Yamamoto. Yokoyama who lost 3 families members in the horrible disaster was shocked and pleased about the discovery and was very pleased about the discovery. It is also one of his prized possessions that he has some of his fondest memories with. Currently living in temporary housing in Japan this just gives Yokoyama a gift he so much look forward to receiving.
Japanese tsunami debris include anything and everything
From, Baltimore Sun: A refrigerator that may be from Japan was found washed up on a beach near Moclips, Wash., on Wednesday. And a huge Japanese fishing dock washed ashore on the Oregon coast last week.
From LA Times: Usually, debris washes ashore with the kind of barnacles and other sea life common to the deep sea, posing no threat to shoreline populations. “When we walked up to that float on the shore and saw it covered with Japanese organisms, it was the first minute that anybody has really worried about introduced organisms with marine debris. It was like landing on the moon,” Chapman said in an interview. “It took us some time to just sort of grasp the enormity of what this was. We didn't think such a thing could happen. And there it was, on our beach.”
This interesting photo shows tsunami items deposited off Samoa.
From KATU: Tsunami debris is tough to monitor. Winds and ocean currents regularly change, while rubbish can break up. Some trash, like fishing gear, kerosene and gas containers and building supplies, can be tied to the tsunami only anecdotally. But in other cases — a soccer ball and a derelict fishing boat in Alaska and a motorcycle in British Columbia, for example — items have been traced back to the disaster through their owners.
From KSL: "I think this is far worse than any oil spill that we've ever faced on the West Coast or any other environmental disaster we've faced on the West Coast" in terms of the debris' weight, type and geographic scope, said Chris Pallister, president of a group dedicated to cleaning marine debris from the Alaska coastline. David Kennedy, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service, told a U.S. Senate panel last month that in most cases debris removal decisions will fall to individual states. Funding hasn't been determined.