Soccer Ball Found on Alaska Beach May Be First Tsunami Debris to Make U.S. Landfall

Kanji characters scrawled on a soccer ball in indelible marker have linked it to a school near a region of northeastern Japan ravaged by the monster tsunami wave that devastated cities in three prefectures last March and may represent the first positively identified items to reach U.S. territory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration reported April 19.

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’s wife translated the writing on the soccer ball and traced it to the name of a school. NOAA confirmed that the school was in the tsunami zone, though located uphill and not seriously damaged by the disaster.

NOAA has been monitoring floating debris from the tsunami for the past year, and some very buoyant items have already made it across the Pacific. A derelict fishing vessel drifted at least 4,500 miles before it was spotted off the coast of Canada and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard in early April. (Anchorage Daily News – Tsunami Debris)

UPDATE (Monday, April 23, 2012)

MORIOKA (Kyodo) — The owner of the soccer ball that apparently floated across the Pacific Ocean from northeastern Japan after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami was found Sunday to be a teenager who survived the disaster. He says he is surprised but thankful for the Alaskan who found it.

“I have no doubt that it is mine,” Misaki Murakami, a 16-year-old high school student in the devastated city of Rikuzentakata, told Kyodo News after hearing the news that his name was written on the ball found in mid-March on the coast of Middleton Island off Alaska.

The ball also bore a message of encouragement in Japanese to Murakami and a signature indicating it was written in March 2005 by third graders of an elementary school, Yumi Baxter, 44, the Japanese wife of David Baxter who found the ball, told Kyodo News by phone.