Japan Tsunami Debris: Bones Expected To Wash Ashore, Oceanographer Says
PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- An oceanographer who tracks flotsam says West Coast beachcombers may find floating athletic shoes with human remains as more debris from last year's Japanese tsunami finally washes ashore.
"We're expecting 100 sneakers with bones in them," Curt Ebbesmeyer told the audience Monday at a tsunami symposium.
Anyone who discovers such remains should call 911 and wait for police. DNA may identify people missing since the March 2011 tsunami hit Japan.
"That may be the only remains that a Japanese family is ever going to have of their people that were lost," Ebbesmeyer said. "We're dealing with things that are of extreme sensitivity. Emotional content is just enormous. So be respectful."
The three-day symposium in Port Angeles and Sequim was hosted by the Clallam County Marine Resources Committee in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Ebbesmeyer is the co-creator of the Ocean Surface Current Simulator computer model, which predicts the movement of ocean flotsam worldwide using known ocean current patterns along with wind speed and direction information provided by the U.S. Navy.
Ebbesmeyer displayed a series of slides showing computer simulations of debris transport developed by his colleague, oceanographer Jim Ingraham of DriftBusters Inc.
Fast-moving debris from the Japanese tsunami, including oyster farm buoys, soccer balls and a shipping container holding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with Japanese license plates, has already arrived on the shores of North America.
In April, the Coast Guard sank a 164-foot vessel, the Ryou-Un Maru, in the Gulf of Alaska after it was dislodged by the tsunami.
"I'm expecting 100 vessels over the next couple of years," Ebbesmeyer said.
About 400 Japanese buoys have washed up in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, he said.
A soccer ball discovered in Alaska was traced to a boy who lives in Northern Japan. A basketball that landed on Prince of Wales Island was traced to a Japanese middle school.
Ebbesmeyer is retired from a career that included tracking icebergs, the 1989 Exxon Valdes oil spill, and Puget Sound currents that affect sewage outflows. He wrote the 2009 book, "Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How a Man's Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science."
Ingraham has retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he created computer models of ocean currents. The Seattle consultants produce the "Beachcombers Alert" newsletter.
___Check out before/after tsunami photos below:
In this combination photo, Tayo Kitamura, 40, kneels in the street to caress and talk to the wrapped body of her mother Kuniko Kitamura, 69, after Japanese firemen discovered the dead body in the ruins of her home in Onagawa, Japan, on March 19, 2011, top, and a newly built home sits at the site of the now-cleared but destroyed area on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
A few homes have been rebuilt in the year since an earthquake and tsunami roared across Japan's coastline, killing 19,000 people. But most communities remain unrecognizable, and their residents' futures uncertain. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
The tsunami that slammed into Japan's coastline one year ago was merciless, sparing little in its path. Homes were reduced to rubble, cars tossed about like toys, and boats -- such as this one photographed in Kesennuma, Japan, on March 28, 2011 -- flung from the sea into streets and onto roofs. The ocean's fury, and the earthquake that preceded it, left around 19,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and sparked the worst nuclear crisis the world had seen in a quarter century. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this combination photo, Japanese vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Japan, on March 15, 2011, top, four days after the tsunami, and vehicles pass through the same area on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
The earthquake and tsunami, which killed around 19,000 people, delivered one of their worst hits to the once-scenic, blue-collar fishing town of Minamisanriku, Japan, photographed here on March 15, 2011. The wall of water spared little in its path, sweeping away nearly every business and every job, and leaving more than half the town's residents dead or homeless. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
A year after the earthquake and tsunami people across Japan and leveled this town, there are hints of progress _ the main roads are free of debris, and some temporary houses have been built. But many in Minamisanriku, and elsewhere across Japan's battered coastline, remain in a hellish state of limbo. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this combination photo, a ship washed away by the tsunami sits in a destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, on March 28, 2011, top, and the same ship sits on the same spot on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
A year after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged the country's coastline and killed around 19,000 people, many of the boats carried inland by the wall of water have been removed. But some, like this one, remain _ providing a stark reminder of nature's fearsome power. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder File)
One year later, more than 3,200 people presumed killed in the earthquake and tsunami have yet to be found. They are among the 19,000 people who lost their lives on March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this combination photo, Japanese residents of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, pass through a road that was cleared by bulldozer through the ruins of the city on March 17, 2011, six days after the tsunami, top, and people cross the same street on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In the days after the earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan's coastal towns, the bulldozers began to arrive, clearing away the rubble that littered the roads, such as this street in Kesennuma, Japan, photographed on March 17, 2011. Those tasked with clearing away the wreckage faced a monstrous task: towering piles of twisted metal and wood, boats perched atop roofs, mountains of family heirlooms, sodden furniture and children's toys. They also faced the grim reality that many of the 19,000 people killed lay entombed in the rubble, waiting to be discovered. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
One year after a powerful tsunami battered Japan and killed around 19,000 people, the streets have been cleared and the wreckage removed from town centers. But the process of destroying all that debris has been slow, with much of it still sitting in huge mountains in temporary holding areas. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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