Suzanne Goldenberg –
Wreckage including lumber, footballs, parts of roofs and factories, and even bikes will soon start coming ashore in North America.
Wreckage from Japan’s tsunami – fishing gear and furniture, footballs and ships – has swept across the Pacific far faster than expected, with thousands of tonnes projected to land on North American shores this year. Scientists believe lighter objects such as buoys and oil drums began reaching land last November or December.
The rest is spread over thousands of miles of ocean between the Midway atoll and the northern islands of Hawaii. About 95% will probably never come ashore and is destined for that massive swirl of floating plastic known as the north Pacific garbage patch.
The remaining fraction is due to reach the west coast of the US and Canada in October.
No one expects to wake up one morning to a tsunami of rubbish. “It is not like you are going to be standing on the beach looking at the horizon and see a wall of debris come in,” said Nicholas Mallos, a marine debris expert at the Ocean Conservancy.
But there have already been some bizarre finds.
This week a beachcomber in British Columbia found a moving crate containing a rusting Harley-Davidson motorcycle registered to Japan’s Miyagi prefecture, which absorbed the brunt of the tsunami.
The crate also contained a set of golf clubs. Last month a a football washed up on an uninhabited island off Alaska and was traced to its owner, a Japanese schoolboy from the town of Rikuzentakata which was almost flattened by the tsunami.
A 160ft fishing boat, the Ryou-Un Maru, drifting to within 300 miles of the British Columbia coast before it was deemed a hazard to shipping and sunk by the US coastguard, was also found.