ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Two sports balls from Japan may be the first positively identified items from the Japan tsunami of March 2011 to reach Alaska shores.
According to an April 19 online notice from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration, a soccer ball and volleyball were found on the beach of Middleton Island by David Baxter, a technician at the radar site on the remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.
Baxter noticed Japanese writing stenciled on the balls. His wife translated the writing on the soccer ball and traced it to the name of a school. The NOAA confirmed that the school was in the tsunami zone, though located uphill and not seriously damaged by the disaster.
The NOAA thinks this could be one of the first times anything washed away during the tsunami has been sufficiently identified as to make it possible to return it to its owner. It’s definitely the first such to be retrieved in Alaska, said Doug Helton, with NOAA offices in Seattle.
Middleton Island lies almost due south of Cordova in the Gulf of Alaska, 70 miles from the mainland.
It’s no surprise that the front edge of tsunami debris should arrive here first. Helton noted that in a new model of predicted debris distribution released earlier this month, “you can see that the Gulf of Alaska is going to get high-windage items, floats, Styrofoam, soccer balls. Those things could be moving pretty quickly. Wood and construction materials will be a lot slower.”