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Couple finds debris believed to be from tsunami

Posted: July 4, 2012 - 12:01am
In this June 6, 2012 photo provided by Ryan Pallister, Patrick Chandler removes tsunami debris on Montague Island near Seward, Alaska. More than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and washing millions of tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, neither the U.S. government nor some West Coast states have a clear plan for how to clean up the rubble that floats to American shores. (AP Photo/Gulf of Alaska Keeper, Ryan Pallister)  Chris Pallister
Chris Pallister
In this June 6, 2012 photo provided by Ryan Pallister, Patrick Chandler removes tsunami debris on Montague Island near Seward, Alaska. More than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and washing millions of tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, neither the U.S. government nor some West Coast states have a clear plan for how to clean up the rubble that floats to American shores. (AP Photo/Gulf of Alaska Keeper, Ryan Pallister)

ANCHORAGE — A couple from the village of Metlakatla was beachcombing on Annette Island in far southeastern Alaska when they stumbled across a 24-foot fiberglass boat believed to be from the Japanese tsunami in March 2011.

Mark Gunyah and his wife, Michele, were beachcombing along the south coast of the island on Saturday when they came upon the barnacle-covered boat. They also found a number of big buoys, according to Tuesday’s Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/Bo4qsR ).

The couple thought perhaps the debris was from the tsunami, so they took a scraper to the boat, which was up near the treeline and covered with sea growth.

“We started thinking: Could this be debris from the tsunami?” Michele said. “So we went back to the boat with some scrapers and, sure enough, the name was written in Japanese.”

Their find has not yet been confirmed as being debris from the tsunami.

A call to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which conducted a survey of debris last month, was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Mark Gunyah, who works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs maintaining roads on the island, returned with an excavator to right the craft and move it to the water. With the help of his father, he brought it into Tamgass Harbor. From there it was put on a trailer and brought into Metlakatla, the only town on the island at the southeast tip of Alaska.

“We had one of the men from the Annette Packing Co. Egg Department come take a look at the boat,” Michele said. “Being as he’s Japanese, he was able to read the lettering.”

The name of the boat is “Kaiho-Maru,” which the man translated as “Pleasant Treasure.” He also told the Gunyahs that the boat was “definitely from Japan.” He recognized the open Boston Whaler-type design as a popular craft among Japanese fishermen.

The Gunyahs contacted NOAA and sent photos of the boat.

In June, a NOAA team spent 10 days searching for tsunami debris on the Alaska coast between Ketchikan and Juneau. They found a number of black buoys similar to those found by the Gunyahs.

Confirmed flotsam from the disaster has been found from a child’s soccer ball on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska to Oregon, where a 160-ton floating dock made landfall after floating across the Pacific Ocean.

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