Huge Piece of Japanese Dock, Broken off by Tsunami, Washes Up In Oregon

By Sophie Bushwick | June 8, 2012 9:00 am

Japanese dock

The tsunami that slammed into Japan in March 2011 ripped this dock from its rightful home in Misawa and took it on a 15-month voyage to Agate Beach, Oregon, where it arrive this week. A metal plaque with Japanese writing helped confirm its origin. The dock isn’t radioactive, though it may have borne a different danger: invasive species.

Last year’s tsunami caused massive devastation in Japan from the coast to up to three miles inland. And as the water receded, it dragged 5 million tons of debris with it into the ocean. Most of the wreckage sank near the coast of Japan, but some 1.5 million tons drifted out to sea under the influence of winds and currents, initially forming a debris field detectable by satellites and then dispersing. Most of the wreckage is still at sea, but items ranging from an empty ship to a Harley-Davidson have been washed up on Pacific Northwest shores since this past winter.

plaque
The dock that washed up in Oregon bore this metal plaque
with Japanese writing.

But the dock’s size, 66 feet long with a weight greater than 180 tons (on the same order of magnitude as a blue whale), sets it apart from smaller pieces of debris. Items as large as the dock could damage ships, but the greater danger is small: the living creatures, from algae to starfish, that hitch rides on pieces of wreckage to reach new habitats. For example, the dock carried Japanese acorn barnacles, mussels, and the known invasive species wakame, a type of seaweed. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently organizing volunteers to remove organisms from the dock and the beach. But getting rid of the dock itself will be much more challenging than detaching its passengers.

[via BBC News]

Images courtesy of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • Catsceo

    Your last sentence has a misspelling, rid, not ride.

  • Sophie Bushwick

    Thanks, fixed!

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    too little, too late.
    Whatever came across will establish itself. So long as it can survive the environment.

  • Tim

    The ocean currents have been bringing organisms across the pacific for eons. I would expect that whatever is on this dock is either already here or wouldn’t survive here.

  • AG

    How radioactive is it?

  • EricJuve

    @AG, I live in Newport which is where Agate Beach is located. The dock was tested soon after its arrival here and it was determined that the dock missed being irradiated. By the time I went to see it last Friday the dock had been stripped of all the larger marine life and it was being gone over by torches to kill the smaller organisms. The current strategy by the local officials is to demolish the dock and dispose of in a landfill. The cost of getting it off the beach in one piece seems to be more than it is worth.

  • Kevin

    Umm, it floats, right? Dig a channel, and when the basin portion is ready, open the channel, float it, and drag it wherever you like with a tug. The channel and basin will either fill in from tidal effect, or be easy to jump start. Seems like the only difficulty would be cable from tug to dock.

  • Brian

    Why destroy it if it wasnt radiated? If it’s not radioactive, it’s safe. Should be kept as a memorial or reminder.

  • Susan

    Why not set it up in situ as a memorial? “”2011 Japanese Tsunami Memorial Dock” or something like that?

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