The first piece of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami washed ashore near Crescent City, CA this month. According to the Del Norte Triplicate, a 20-foot skiff from the Takata High School in Rikuzentakata made its way to the West Coast, washing ashore on April 7th. Wreckage from the tsunami has continued to hit the shores of Alaska since May 2012, and the debris has just recently begun to make its way south to California coast.
Researchers initially estimated the debris touchdown to be sometime in 2014, but the vessel from Rikuzentakata confirms that it is already well on its way. The heavily-barnacled skiff was identified as belonging to Takata High School, which ran a marine sciences program before it was completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2011. Originating in the Iwate prefecture, the boat was identified by a photograph posted on Rikuzentakata city’s Facebook page by researcher Amya Miller, prompted by geologist Lori Dengler who translated the Japanese character to read the school’s name. Teachers from the Takata High School recognized the boat, which was used to teach students about aquaculture and harvesting marine life. The boat’s identity was confirmed by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
In 2011, a three-story wall of water ravaged the city of Rikuzentakata, and this recovered element of the wreckage provides a sense of hope to the local people, who are still searching for uncovered bodies of victims. The boat will be sent back to its rightful owners as symbol of that hope. But despite this ray of hope, researchers fear that the coast of California is in for a deluge of tsunami debris, which can include harmful substances and chemicals.
Images via Rikuzentakata’s Facebook Page