Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Catch Of the Day- Soccer Ball and Volleyball Washed Ashore on Alaskan Beach May Be First Salvageable Debris From 2011 Tsunami

Japanese Beach Volleyball star Miwa Asao- probably NOT the rightful owner of the volleyball that washed ashore in Alaska this month, but worth a look nonetheless.
Remember that derelict Japanese fishing vessel that was washed out to sea during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that the US Coast Guard sank off the Alaskan coast earlier this month? Many experts predicted it would be the first of many items to show up off the western coast of the USA and Canada after a substantial debris field made up of boats, buoys, vehicles and battered structures began forming in the Pacific Ocean after the catastrophic disaster that struck north-eastern Japan.

Turns out they were right, although not all of the items showing up in the waters off of Alaska and British Columbia are the size of the Ryou Un Maru.

An Alaska man beachcoming on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska southeast of the Kenai Peninsula found a soccer ball with Japanese script on it back in March.

Dave and Yumi Baxter displaying their Catch of the Day
David Baxter, a radar technician, told the AP by e-mail that when he first saw the ball, he immediately thought it might've come from the tsunami zone.

Baxter's wife, who is Japanese, was able to translate some of the messages written on the ball and with the help of a Japanese reporter was able to identify the soccer ball's owner as 16 year old Misaki Murakami.

Murakami, from the town of Rikuzentakata, is surprised and thankful the soccer ball has been found more than 3,000 miles away.

“It was a big surprise. I’ve never imagined that my ball has reached Alaska,” Murakami told public broadcaster NHK. “I’ve lost everything in the tsunami. So I’m delighted,” he said. “I really want to say thank you for finding the ball.”
He was particularly glad because all furniture and sentimental items in his home had been washed away in the March 11, 2011, tsunami.

The ball, which also had messages of encouragement written on it, was given to him in 2005, when Murakami was in third grade, as a goodbye gift when he transferred to another school.

Two weeks later, Baxter said had discovered a volleyball washed ashore on the same island. NHK reproted that the owner been tenatively identified as a 19 year old girl from Iwate perfecture.

The Baxters say they plan on travelling to Japan in May to return the balls to their rightful owners, although they said they were reluctant to visit Murakami directly, claiming they didn't want to raise too much of a commotion.

Although both the Ryou Un Maru and a number of basketball-sized buoys thought to be from Japanese oyster farms have turned up on shore or off the Alaskan coast, the NOAA belives this is the first instance of debris from the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami showing up in American waters and being returned to the rightful owners in Japan.

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