News

Tsunami debris?

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

A couple of Sequim beachcombers came across debris marked with Asian characters and are wondering if it could be from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami.

 

Don and Jody Kirst found several plastic bottles with Asian markings among the driftwood on the Dungeness Spit on Feb. 27 after a storm.

 

“At first we were quite excited,” Don Kirst said. “Then we realized this is kind of sad. We started thinking about what really happened (in the tsunami). We found a baby shoe there (on the beach).”

 

While they aren’t sure if the bottles and baby shoe are debris from the tsunami carried across the Pacific Ocean, the thought that they could be brought the devastation home, he said.

 

“It made you think about what happened,” he said.

 

Dianna Parker, a communication specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said it is very difficult to tell where plastic bottles and other similar items are from, since those types of debris from Asia wash up on Pacific Northwest shores all the time.

 

“Even if it did come from Japan, we have a really hard time knowing if it was washed into the sea by the tsunami or if it has been swirling around in the ocean for years,” she said. “Either is possible.”

 

People who find debris they think might be from the tsunami are encouraged to report it to disasterdebris@noaa.gov.

 

NOAA estimates beachgoers on the West Coast and Alaska will start noticing a gradual increase in marine debris in 2013 as the debris field from the tsunami is carried across the ocean.

 

“In recent weeks, beachcombers have caught sight of buoys and other items washing up on the West Coast, Canada and Alaskan shores,” said Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA’s marine debris program, in a web post. “Although models suggest most of the debris won’t show up until sometime next year, NOAA is not ruling anything out. It is possible for highly buoyant debris to catch wind and arrive ahead of expectations.”

 

Kirst said he and his wife are scavengers, regularly combing local beaches for glass and other finds.

They’ll continue to be on the lookout for potential disaster debris, he said.

 


Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

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