From the ABC 7 Weather team

First batch of Japanese tsunami debris reaches the U.S.

December 19, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Buoys used for oyster farming have washed up in Washington State, the first suspected debris from the March 2011 tsunami to arrive in America.

The first wave of debris from the March 2011 Japan tsunami, composed of large black buoys, has washed up in Washington State. Pictured: U.S. sailers help clear debris from the waters off Oshima Island one month after the disaster. (Eva Marie Ramsaran / Navy Visual News Service)

Last week, the StormWatch 7 blog covered a new model for predicting the movement of floating Japanese debris washed away by the March 2011 tsunami. U.S. researchers believed that the winter of 2011 was a likely time for the drifting horde to start arriving on American shores. Turns out they were spot-on: Large, charcoal-colored buoys have been spotted in Washington State that were likely once used by Japanese oyster farmers. Here's one:

tsunami debris buoy

That buoy shot comes from a presentation given recently by Jim Ingraham and Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer, seafaring rubber-duckie expert and the brain behind exquisite niche periodical Beachcombers' Alert! Ebbesmeyer, speaking at Peninsula College (scroll down for the audio), noted that seven of the "strange black objects" had been found in the waters near Seattle and were likely ripped out of their moorings in Japan by the force of the Tohoku tsunami.

Now Japan would like them returned, please. According to the Japan Times:

One of the 1-meter-long polyethylene buoys bears the name of a Japanese producer. Yuuki Watanabe, a senior official in a fisheries cooperative association in Miyagi Prefecture, examined a photo of one of the buoys and confirmed it looks like the type commonly used in oyster cultivation in the Miyagi area.

"I'd like the buoys to be given back to us," Watanabe said.

The reason for that should be clear enough: One U.S. beachcomber's flotsam might be a treasured object to those in Japan who lost loved ones in the disaster. In his presentation, Ebbesmeyer actually gives a checklist for people who find such items, which includes treating the debris "as a crash scene," checking it for radioactivity (!) and notifying the likely owners in Japan. He also says that U.S. citizens should expect more unusual things to begin bobbing up in the Pacific in the months to come, including car tires, the wings of airplanes and – Jesus – "feet in sneakers." (At least West Coasters are used to the severed feet.)

Here's the whole slideshow from Ebbesmeyer's talk:

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