Oregon Coast Rush of Tsunami Debris: Call for Volunteers
(Oregon Coast) – A sudden flood of tsunami debris and other objects along the Oregon coast has officials scrambling to clean up the beaches as visitors scratch their heads over the odd and myriad finds. It's also given rise to a call for volunteers to help monitor and clean up various areas. (Photographs courtesy Susan Burr, Lincoln City).
Beach monitoring organization CoastWatch is reporting big numbers of stuff all up and down the Oregon coast, many of them large and with possibly spooky living organisms on them. Boats have been found with creatures living on them, as well as wheels, oil drums and a huge array of plastics and other items with Japanese writing on them.
While many scientists had been saying the debris from Japan's 2011 earthquake-induced tsunami would be waning on Oregon shores, this comes as a bit of a surprise. However, a sizable run of west winds in late April caused a lot of things to wash up on beaches.
One beach near Neskowin yielded bottles, a bulb and plastic floats, as well as a pallet with Japanese writing on it. Susan Burr, manager of Inn at Spanish Head in Lincoln City, found and photographed many of these objects.
At Gleneden Beach, CoastWatch volunteers reported finding strips of flexible plastic and a stick with Japanese writing that says “Awayama Aluminum Sash.” Also discovered there were a roll of plastic tape with Asian writing on it, a piece of styrofoam with barnacles living on it, a Hello Kitty cup and other objects that had Korean writing on them.
Several floats with Japanese characters were found around Oceanside along with Asian water bottles.
Much of this stuff shows up rather regularly on the Oregon coast anyway, and a large number of it may not even be from the tsunami.
“The debris began washing up in quantity after the very strong westerlies of a couple of weeks ago, and has continued washing up ever since,” said CoastWatch Executive Director Phillip Johnson. “What generally happens is that a storm, or some other combination of wind and currents, breaks off a lobe from the Great North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, aka the garbage patch, which then drifts toward the West Coast and spreads debris over a stretch of the shoreline, often a considerable stretch.”
CoastWatch has sent out a call for volunteers to help clean up the mess.
“We could use help from individuals or groups,” Johnson said.
Training and support will be provided by the Oregon Marine Debris Team (OMDT), a partnership among four non-profit organizations - CoastWatch, Surfrider, SOLVE, Washed Ashore - plus Oregon Sea Grant and with the cooperation of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
For information or to volunteer, contact Fawn Custer: via email, (541) 270-0027 or the OMDT website. Contact Fawn also if you would be willing to help scout any stretch of the Oregon shoreline for marine debris on a regular basis.
Other tsunami debris photos from the past below:
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