MANA — Members of the Pacific Missile Range Facility’s Weapon Recovery Boat team pulled a Japanese buoy out of the ocean approximately 2 nautical miles west of Nohili Point on Jan. 18.
Photos of the buoy and samples were sent to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, which reports the marine growth found on the debris seem to be consistent with other growths that can be traced back to other recovered Japanese tsunami debris.
NOAA sent the photo of the inscription to the Japanese Consulate, according to Dennis Rowley, Range Complex Sustainment Coordinator.
“They informed us that the buoy was in fact Japanese, and came from Onahama port of Fukushima. There is no solid evidence that it was part of the (March 2011) tsunami debris, but it is a possibility.”
PMRF’s security department scanned the buoy for radiation, and it was determined to be within normal levels and not a hazard to human health, according to a PMRF news release.
PMRF locates buoy
“From a distance we could see something floating in the water and it wasn’t moving,” said WRB 102’s captain, Bob Ryder. “As we got closer, we thought it was a capsized boat. We continued to get closer and saw that it had Japanese writing on the side.”
According to PMRF officials, Ryder radioed PMRF’s range operations to inform them of the buoy, and the WRB team recovered the debris so it wouldn’t pose a navigational hazard.
After the recovery the crew carried on with their mission, according to Petty Officer Matthew Diendorf of PMRF’s public affairs office.
“We tried to translate the Japanese text by using the Internet on our smartphones,” said Ed Horner, WRB 102 advance crewman, “but we could only find a few words.”
The team returned to Port Allen and wrapped the buoy in plastic to protect against the introduction of any unknown invasive species, PMRF reports.
“At least one species, though being alien to Hawai‘i, was not a potential concern following recovery of the buoy,” Burger states in the release.
“This is attributed to the onboard security by the WRB crew, who encased the buoy in plastic immediately after docking and relocated it to a secure location away from the pier.”
Since the March 11, 2011, tsunami in Japan, different debris has washed ashore along the beaches of Hawai‘i and the West Coast of the United States.
“Most of the light-windage debris (objects that have a high proportion of their mass above the water line) has already washed ashore on the northwest coast of the United States,” states Larissa Leroux, Outreach Specialist for the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawai‘i’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
“What we’re seeing now is the intermediate-windage debris that is re-circulating westward and hitting the Hawaiian Islands. It is expected to continue for the next six months or longer. The low-windage items are still drifting toward the northwest coast, and little is known about these items.”