Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The 9.0+ mega earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan back in March caused millions of tons of debris to wash into the Pacific Ocean. And for the first time, some of that debris has been spotted drifting between Russia and Hawaii, where officials expect it to hit Hawaiian shores much sooner than their original two-years-from-now estimate.
Russian researcher Nikolai Maximenko and his team recently identified household appliances, furniture, plastic material, and even boats floating in Pacific waters during a recent trek home from Honolulu to Russia aboard the STS Pallada. Their discovery represents the first documented case of Fukushima rubble being identified in waters, and heading towards US land.
“We have a rough estimate of five to 20 million tons of debris coming from Japan,” said University of Hawaii (UH) computer programming researcher Jan Hafner to KITV 4 News in Honolulu. “[The Russian team] saw some pieces of furniture, some appliances, anything that can float, and they picked up a fishing boat. That’s actually our first confirmed report of tsunami debris.”
The Fukushima earthquake and tsunami sent a lot more than just small objects out to sea, though. Early reports showed entire buildings, including homes and warehouses, being sent into ocean waters. And while much of this larger debris ended up sinking, masses of it are still floating en route to shorelines in Hawaii and other places.
“We projected [the debris] would hit Midway in spring of next year, but based on the Pallada finding, the debris seems to be moving faster,” added Hafner, noting that he has been tracking the progression of the debris using a detailed computer analysis of ocean currents. “We don’t want to create a panic, but it’s good to know it’s coming.”
What this means for Hawaiians is that they must prepare to receive unknown tons of Fukushima waste on their pristine coastlines. All that waste has to go somewhere, and unless protocols are enacted to divert or contain it, it will eventually begin piling up on some of the world’s most popular beaches.
And within the next several years, Washington, Oregon, and California are expected to face the same dilemma. Fukushima debris that bypasses Hawaii will eventually make its way to the western coastlines of the US mainland as well.
Sources for this article include: