Residents of towns in the Alaska Panhandle have begun picking up plastic bottles, chunks of foam insulation and floating buoys from Japan’s 2011 tsunami.
“This is urethane spray building foam,” Chris Pallister, president of the conservation group Gulf of Alaska Keeper, said as he picked through trash on Montague Island, about 200 miles north of Juneau. “We just never got much of that before. But if you walk up and down this beach, you see big chunks.”
The foam comes from the walls of buildings that were smashed to splinters by the wall of water that slammed into Japan’s northeastern coast after the March 2011 earthquake that left nearly 16,000 known dead. The wreckage was swept out to sea when the wave receded and has drifted 4,000 miles across the northern Pacific in the 14 months since then.
It’s been more than five months since the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Many coastal areas in northern Japan were devastated and tons of debris washed into the ocean.
That debris is headed our way, but how much, and how long before we may see it?
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has created models as to how the debris will flow.
"We’ve used to project sort of the trajectory and estimated time of arrival for some of this debris, again these are computers models. So, what’s really going to happen, and what that debris will be, how much it will be we really don’t know,” said Carey Morishige of NOAA.