PORTLAND, ORGAN – Algae and an oyster are among the clues Oregon biologists believe may link the vestiges of a sea-ravaged boat that washed up on a state beach Tuesday to the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Five years after Japan’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake set off a series of massive tsunami that demolished a swath of its Pacific coastline and killed nearly 20,000 people, debris — and sea creatures — from the disaster are still finding their way to the Oregon shore, said Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
“That kind of habitat attracts living animals even if it’s floating out in the ocean,” Havel said. “We should not be surprised to continue to see debris from Japan wash up on the shores.”
The state has provided U.S. and Japanese officials with the boat’s ID number and could hear back within a couple of days.
Barring a clear official identification, research on the animals tucked inside could help confirm whether the flotsam originated some 5,000 miles (8,000 km) away — more than double the distance from Canada to Mexico, said John Chapman, a biologist from Oregon State University who is testing the samples.
In addition to the oyster and algae, biologists took a barnacle shell and a planes crab for testing.
The biology of the mollusks shows Asian origin, and the wreckage “does look like something that would have come from the tsunami,” Chapman said.
In 2012, a massive, 66-foot (20-meter) dock ripped from its moorings in Japan and floated up 15 months later on a beach north of Newport, Oregon. A year ago, remains of a boat filled with live fish native to Japanese waters washed ashore.
The 16-foot (5-meter) chunk of boat landed on Tuesday morning near Coos Bay, about 200 miles (320 km) south of Portland, and was expected to be disposed of in a landfill by the end of the day, said Calum Stevenson, ocean shore specialist for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted the boat fragment in the Pacific Ocean earlier this month and attached a tracking buoy to it.