Just after this morning’s news of another earthquake in Japan’s northern prefectures, comes follow-up reports about the deluge of debris from last year’s tsunami reaching the North American shores of western Alaska. Previously there was sporadic findings of plastic foam, bottles, and wood; things that an artist from British Columbia used to make a sculpture. But now, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies says they’re finding hundreds of large, black buoys that were used in Japanese aquaculture.
While coastal officials estimate that 70% of the Japanese tsunami debris has sunk in the ocean, the remaining 30% has started to wash up on Alaska and Canada’s western coasts in the last few months. Some of the things making their way across the ocean have pretty incredible stories, like an empty “ghost ship” that had to be scuttled by the U.S. Coast Guard, a young boy’s soccer ball found by an Alaskan couple, and possibly most incredible of all, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, found inside a floating cargo container that turned up off the shores of British Columbia.
Experts say that out of the five tons of debris created by last year’s tragedy, one and a half tons are still afloat. Rather than radioactivity, the greatest threat from the wreckage is toxicity. As an example, scientist point out that if a barrel comes ashore intact, then it’s not such a problem. On the other hand, when it’s been punctured, the material inside may have been diluted, but both that barrel and the contaminated water will turn on the beach somehow.
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