Maybe, but probably not quite yet. There’s no doubt that debris from last year’s devastating tsunami in Japan is out in the Pacific and heading our way. Is it here yet? Some is making its way to the coast, but the bulk is still out there. Time to make a plan, don’t you think? Thankfully several levels of government are starting to gather to talk. Let’s hope there’s a comprehensive plan in place when the debris begins to arrive in earnest.
According to oceanographers whose business it is to study these things, the debris that is making its way to our shores at the moment includes objects such as large floats that have so much of their bulk above the water’s surface they are “sailed” across the ocean and thus move much faster than the currents are travelling. This video, which also gives you a taste of what it’s like here in a full-on winter storm (and includes footage of Long Beach) does have some compelling footage that could actually be from the tsunami. (The helmet, for instance, could have floated with a large portion of its bulk above the water’s surface.)
Although it will be important to repatriate things that are (a) actually from Japan, (b) valuable (either emotionally or financially) and (c) are identifiable to a specific owner (as specified by the Japanese ambassador), there will likely be very little debris that meets those criteria. So we’ll be dealing with a lot of debris – mostly plastic – so a plan on how to deal with it is definitely required.
What I think a lot of people are missing in this story is that there is already a lot of debris out in our ocean. A lot. Now that people are looking for debris from Japan, they’re finding all sorts of things with Asian writing (but not all, of course; many crap on our beaches comes from North America). There are a lot of fishing fleets turfing a lot of debris overboard. My hope is that this frenzy over the debris from Japan will actually shed more light on the persistent problem of problematic ocean debris that has been with us since polystyrene foam and plastics first rolled off the assembly line.
Here’s a look at one of his fabulously quirky creations.