Entries in Debris (3)


Beached Dock a Remnant of Japan Tsunami?

Image Credit: KATU/ABC News(SALEM, Ore.) -- Oregonians awoke to a huge surprise Tuesday when a 7-foot-tall dock washed ashore, leaving local and state officials wondering whether it’s just the beginning of the bulk of tsunami debris set to arrive this year on the West Coast via currents from Japan.

Chris Havel, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, said it is too early to tell exactly where the dock originated, but crews identified a metal placard with Japanese writing that was attached to the dock. The March 2011 earthquake-tsunami left at least 15,000 people dead and swept away cars, boats, buildings, homes and maybe at least one errant dock.

“We sent it [the placard] to the Japanese Consulate in Portland and they are working on it,” he said. “We have not received the full translation and are waiting for the consulate to respond. Once they have, we can find out where and when it came from.”

A Washington-based, Japanese-speaking journalist who saw a photo of the placard said it reads, the “Misawa District Area Fishing Harbor Maintenance Construction” from Nishimura Industries Inc., which is located at the northern tip of the main island of Japan.  The city of Misawa, located in an area called the Aomori Prefecture, suffered some damage from the tsunami, particularly at the U.S. Air Force base, which had electricity shut down.

Havel said the dock arrived at Agate Beach in Newport, Ore., around 3 a.m. local time Tuesday, after the high tide pushed it far into the beach. The 66-foot-long, 19-foot-wide structure is made of concrete and metal and is too large and too heavy to be moved without the use of machinery.

“We haven’t had anything this large and heavy wash up on the beach before,” Havel said.

If the next high tide fails to pull the dock back out into the Pacific Ocean, the state might have to demolish it, he said.

“We would prefer not to demolish it, because it would interrupt the … public beach,” Havel said. “We are talking to salvage experts to give us a thumbs up or down on whether to demolish it or not.”

If the dock has to be destroyed, Havel said officials would attach cables to the dock, as well as boats, and pull it across the surf line. He said demolishing the structure would be a challenge without disturbing beach-goers.

“We will know in the next couple of days which method will be workable,” Havel said.

The dock contains no hazardous materials but beach-goers are prohibited from climbing on it, Havel said. Viewing and taking photos are permitted.

Photos and status updates are available on the Oregon Parks and Recreation website.

“We had some people from Pennsylvania visit the beach when I first visited the dock, and they said, ‘Is this common,’” Havel said. “I told them, ‘No, but you arrived at a special time.’”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan Tsunami Debris to Reach Hawaii, North America

This false color image of Sendai, Japan was captured by the Landsat 7 ETM+ bands 4,3, and 2 on March 12, 2011 and shows inland areas inundated by water from the tsunami, smoke from fires burning, and clouds of debris in the water. USGS/NASA, Mike Taylor(HONOLULU) -- The devastating tsunami generated by a magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan last year created 25 million tons of debris, ripping towns and villages into the Pacific Ocean.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii along with Ocean Conservancy revealed that part of the 4 to 8 million tons of debris that washed into the ocean could turn up on the northern Hawaiian islands as early as Tuesday.

“We estimate that currently, even though winter storms and ocean break down part of debris, between 1 to 2 tons of debris are floating,” said Dr. Nikolai Maximenko, senior researcher at the University of Hawaii. “A majority of debris is going to stay in the water a long time and only a small percent will hit the coastline.”

Mid-size fishery ships, small boats, lumber from broken houses and fish nets are among the many objects that could wash up on the shores.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected this small percentage of debris could hit the northern Hawaiian islands as early as January and February of this year, while the West Coast and Alaska could see debris by 2013. Between 2014 and 2016, ocean currents will circle the remaining debris back west to the main Hawaiian Islands.

While initial photos from the tsunami showed massive clusters of debris lingering in the ocean, researchers say most is now dispersed and no longer tracked by satellite imagery.

Even with countless reports of tsunami debris findings in the past year, the only two confirmed were both distinguishable Japanese vessels. Ruth Yender, Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Coordinator for NOAA, says researchers will have to use the volume or unique characteristics in order to distinguish tsunami debris, and even more so, radioactivity is not of concern.

“It’s very highly unlikely there will be any radioactive contamination of the debris. The debris was washed out by the tsunami several days before the leak occurred, and monitoring of the discovered Japan vessels indicated that they were normal and was no high level of radioactivity.”

While those who live along the coast might be keeping their eyes peeled to get their hands on tsunami debris, Yender says soon no one will know the difference.

“Probably two to three years from now we won’t be able to distinguish between tsunami debris and normal debris.”

The tsunami caused the deaths of 13,000 people and uprooted 500,000 people from their homes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Debris from Japan's Quake, Tsunami Heading to US West Coast

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- While the world's attention is focused on Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactors, there is increasing concern over a massive debris field that is floating toward the West Coast of the U.S.

After the tsunami and 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan in March, enormous chunks of entire towns were washed away and are now being found floating in open waters.

Members of the U.S. Navy's 7th fleet, near the coast of Japan, say they've never seen anything like it

Houses, cars, even tractor trailers bobbing in the ocean have become a threat to shipping traffic.

"It's very challenging to move through these to consider these boats run on propellers and that these fishing nets or other debris can be dangerous to the vessels that are actually trying to do the work," Ensign Vernon Dennis said.  "So getting through some of these obstacles doesn't make much sense if you are going to actually cause more debris by having your own vessel become stuck in one of these waterways."

Dennis said the largest thing they might find that would hinder traffic would be capsized vessels or ships.

"There was really no way to weather such a way, such an there's ships out there -- that are capsized or upside down or resting on their sides... in many cases are blocking the channels that go into these ports," he said.

More than 200,000 buildings were washed out to sea by the tsunami and now a powerful current called the North Pacific Gyre is carrying everything towards the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California before looping back towards Hawaii and Asia.

"Across the wide Pacific, the drift rate is about five to 10 miles per day, so it's not a terribly strong current, but it's deliberate," said oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer, who has tracked the path of ocean debris from around the world.  "It never sleeps."

He says a year from now, things that easily float like boats, wood from houses and plastic children's toys will appear.  Two years out, fishing supplies and nets will come ashore and after three years, shoes, plastic furniture and even entire dining sets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio