Tsunami 'Ghost Ship' Haunts Canada Coast

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As an eerie reminder of the tragedy that befell the Japanese people more than 12 months ago, a 150-foot Japanese fishing boat has been spotted on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, floating aimlessly off the coast of the Haida Gwaii islands, British Columbia.

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, 2011, up to 8 million tons of wreckage was washed out to sea — 2 million of which is thought to still be floating on the surface.

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The "ghost ship" has been traced back to a Hokkaido squid fishing company, which confirmed that no one was thought to have been onboard before the tsunami struck.

The ship was spotted by a patrol aircraft, and the Canadian transport ministry is keeping close tabs on the vessel, ensuring it doesn't become an obstruction to shipping lanes and isn't leaking pollution.

Oceanic researchers have been working hard to understand the extent to which the Japanese debris has affected the Pacific. By October 2011, debris had washed up on Hawaii beaches and by December 2011, tsunami flotsam had reached Washington state. NOAA models show that debris should have reached California by now.

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These circulation models predict the tsunami debris will become part of the Pacific Garbage Patch Gyre as the California current and coastal winds blow it back out into the ocean.

This fishing vessel discovered off British Columbia is one of the larger examples of debris to arrive at the west coast of North America, a reminder of the disaster that continues to affect the lives of millions across the ocean.

Sources: BBC, gCaptain, Department of National Defence

Photo: The Japanese "ghost ship" as spotted by a Canadian aircraft. Credit: Canada's Department of National Defense.