Although the Ikkatsu Project has been involved in other issues related to marine pollution, we began our work with an eye to the tragic Japanese tsunami of March, 2011, and that traumatic event still has our attention. During our surveys in Alaska earlier this month, we kept a lookout for items that may have come from Japan after the waves innundated so much of its northeastern coastline.
Although it can be difficult in many instances to categorically state that one item or another is definitely tsunami debris, there are certain things that are beyond question. The red kerosene containers that we found on a north-facing Augustine beach used to be in Japanese homes. (Because so many of the houses destroyed by the tsunami used kerosene for heating and because these containers have no real marine application, it is a reasonable certainty that they are on these remote beaches as a result of the tidal waves and would not be there otherwise.)
It’s hard not to think about where each of these came from, about the home it used to be stored in and the people who used to live there. I find myself thinking about when it was filled for the last time, the circumstances that violently pulled it from that time to now. It’s just a thing, really; it’s just another piece of plastic debris deposited on what should be a pristine, wild shoreline. Except it’s different, somehow.