UPDATED: Anderson finds floats from tsunami zone

John Anderson drift floats  

Chris Cook - Forks Forum photo 


Master beachcomber John Anderson of Forks stands with a black float and the foam insides of a blue-cloth-covered float that have drifted from Japan to a Pacific Coast beach near Kalaloch. The floats have been identified as coming from the Tahoku earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeast coast of Japan in March. Anderson said he found the floats on the beach in early December. Seattle oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer had identified the floats as being from the tsunami-ravaged coastline, he said. Ebbesmeyer was a main speaker at a recent talk on preparations for the arrival of massive amounts of debris on the Washington caast from the disaster in Japan. 

Anderson showed the Forks Forum an online photo of such floats taken in the Sendai region prior to the tsunami. The floats took up an area of about two football fields and were used for shellfish aquaculture beds. He surmised that the floats are more exposed to winds than most debris and thus are moving ahead of the masses of debris that are usually found entangled together. A wind storm in November accelerated the arrival of the floats on the local Pacific coast Anderson suspects.

The topic of ocean waters and coastline pollution by plastic debris is the topic of “Plastic Shores,” a documentary film being made by La Mode Verte, an environmental-focused film production company based in Great Britain. A film crew from the company traveled to Forks last spring to film Anderson at his home where he has a personal museum of glass balls, plastic floats and hundreds of other varieties of beach combing finds. A trailer from the film, with a peak at the segment filmed in Forks, can be seen at

At the Forks Chamber of Commerce meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 21, Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty said that signs of human remains found on the coast when the debris washes ashore should be reported. He said relatives of the deceased may want to make a pilgrimage to the site of landing to respect their dead relative following a Japanese tradition. Doherty said any items that may identify the remains would be valuable in such analysis. 



 Ian Miller, Ph.D, Coastal Hazards Specialist, Washington Sea Grant 

I wanted to continue the focus on marine debris from the Japanese tsunami generated by Curtis Ebbesmeyer's December 13th presentation at Peninsula College and the subsequent reports in the PDN regarding Japanese tsunami buoys.  Two days after Curtis's talk NOAA published a nice ~12 minute podcast summarizing some of their modeling results and other analyses concerning when, where and how much debris can be expected around the eastern Pacific.

Find it here:

NOAA's conclusions (taking into account considerable uncertainty) sound similar to Dr. Ebbesmeyer's.  While we are seeing the forefront of the debris "field" already, models suggest that the bulk of the debris will make landfall on our coast late next year and in 2013.

Additionally, NOAA has set up two tools designed to track debris.  The first is an email to which accounts of Japanese tsunami debris can be sent.  Include when, where and any additional information (photos):

The second is a smartphone app designed to do the above work of emailing marine debris information automatically.  Find it here:

I also encourage everyone to keep in mind that our coast is at risk for a seismic event, with tsunami-generating capacity, of a scale of the Tohoku earthquake.  As we prepare for this debris please also use it as a reminder that we must continue to prepare, though response planning and adaptation strategies, for a large seismic event on the Olympic Peninsula.

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