Debris from Japan's tsunami in March may hit Alaska shores soon

The Anchorage Daily NewsDecember 19, 2011 

Debris from the March 11 Japan tsunami has reached Washington state and British Columbia. According to predictions from a leading oceanographer, Alaskans can expect to see flotsam -- perhaps tons of it -- washing up on coastal beaches soon.

On Tuesday, a black float about the size of a 55-gallon drum was displayed in Port Angeles, Wash., on the Olympic Peninsula where it had been found a few miles east of Neah Bay.

On Wednesday, Canadian television showed photos of bottles and metal containers that washed up near Tofino, in the middle of the west coast of Vancouver Island. One resident interviewed said he had "never seen such a large quantity of debris at once."

An even larger quantity is out there. Much larger.

In September, the Russian ship Pallada reported encountering a vast stretch of debris 2,000 miles from Japan. The Pallada -- a tall-masted sailing ship used to train sailors that visited Kodiak and Sitka in July of this year -- took seven days to pass through the flotsam. By some estimates the area of the mass is twice the size of Texas.

No tsunami-related debris has been reported in Alaska, according to the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies in Homer and the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation in Juneau. But that may speak more to the absence of observers than to the oceanographer's predictions.

"We have not seen anything as of yet," said Dave Gaudet with the Marine Conservation Alliance on Friday. "But of course our weather, being what it is, people really aren't out there looking. December is not prime beachcombing time in Southeast Alaska."

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