Scientists observe ‘tragic experiment’ of tsunami debris

Sunday, May 27, 2012
By Paul Martin

Material swept across the Pacific after Japan’s 2011 earthquake offers an opportunity to track items originating from a single point at a single time. Debris has begun washing up on the West Coast.

By Tony Barboza
May 26, 2012
Los Angeles Times

Jeff Larson has seen just about everything wash up on the shores of Santa Cruz: bottles, toys, shotgun shells, busted surfboards and fishing floats that looked like they had bobbed across the Pacific.

When surging water driven by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan tore apart his city’s harbor, he was there to scoop up the splintered docks and broken boats that were heaved onto the sand.

Now, more than a year after the catastrophe in Japan, Larson and fellow beachcombers up and down the West Coast are awaiting the flotsam that was set on a eastward course by the destructive surge of water.

Fishing floats, soccer balls, fuel tanks and crewless fishing vessels set adrift by the tsunami and pushed thousands of miles across the ocean by currents and winds are already arriving on American shores.

But this is not just driftwood. These fragments of people’s lives are floating reminders of a great tragedy: The March 11, 2011, earthquake that unleashed tsunami waves over 100 feet high killed more than 16,000 people, obliterated coastal communities and swept millions of tons of material out to sea.

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