Japanese Tsunami Flotsam Appearing In Kodiak Waters

A local beachcomber and a renowned oceanographer have found that Kodiak is already receiving some of the earliest arrivals of debris from the Japanese tsunami that resulted from a 9.0 earthquake last March. The tsunami killed nearly 16,000 people and devastated 400 miles of Japan’s coastline.

Back in September, avid beach comber Dave Kubiak  came across a large, white plastic float while out in his boat.

Kubiak moved on, not sure if the float was actually from the tsunami. But then he came across several more and then his friend- a fellow beach comber- also reported seeing the floats.

Kubiak’s friend actually pulled a few of the floats and stored them in the back of his truck. They took pictures and sent them to Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer.

Ebbesmeyer is well-known for his study of flotsam and how it travels through the ocean. He sent the pictures to the national media in Japan and asked for help identifying the floats.

Ebbesmeyer says debris will continue to wash up on shores from Kodiak to Oregon for the next few years. The ensuing reports from beach combers like Kubiak will make for better understanding of how flotsam moves through the ocean.

Ebbesmeyer says scientists are already hypothesizing about the effects of mass amounts of debris traveling through the Pacific Ocean’s currents. He points to an unprecedented number of sea turtles washing up on Vancouver Island.

Ebbesmeyer says people who find debris should be especially careful and respectful. Personal items and artifacts can still be reunited with people in Japan. He also suggests testing items for radiation, just to be prudent. Ebbesmeyer asks that people send him pictures and accounts of debris sightings through his website, flotsametrics.com.

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Jennifer Canfield is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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