Japan Tsunami Debris: Wreckage Reaching Alaska Surges

Bottles, plastic foam and floating buoys are just a few of the scattershot items washing ashore in Alaska, part of a wave of debris surging toward U.S. shores from the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, CNN reports.

"In the past we would find a few dozen large black buoys, used in Japanese aquaculture, on an outside beach cleanup," Patrick Chandler of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies told Agence France Presse. "Now we see hundreds."

Officials estimate almost 70 percent of the debris swept to sea by last year's tsunami has sunk, but that remaining 30 percent has begun showing up on Canadian and American shores in the last few months. In April 2012, a Japanese child's soccer ball turned up in Alaska, a ghost ship had to be sunk, and a lost Harley Davidson washed ashore on Graham Island off the coast of British Columbia.

According to CBS News, one-and-a-half million tons of an estimated five million tons of debris remain afloat. And more than radioactivity, toxicity poses the greatest concern when it comes to wreckage.

"Think about everything in your garage and imagine that dumping in the ocean," M. Sanjayan, CBS News science and environmental contributor, told the outlet. "Some of it is going to make it out here intact, so a barrel might contain something. If it's punctured, it would have been diluted by now. That's what I think people are worried about -- it showing up on a beach."


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article listed the debris remaining afloat as between "one-and-a-half tons" and "five tons."