Russian tall ship to search for missing tsunami debrisUniversity of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Outreach Specialist, International Pacific Research Center
Jan Hafner, (808) 956-2530
Scientific Computer Programmer, International Pacific Research Center
Now help is on the way in the form of the Russian three-master sailing ship, the STS Pallada, which docked at the Aloha Market Place pier in Honolulu on September 11. The Pallada with 102 cadets aboard is on a three and a half month training voyage that has taken its young crew from their homeport in Vladivostok to Kodiak, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and now Honolulu. On its homeward journey, perhaps via Tokyo, the ship is likely to pass through some of the now widely scattered debris.
On the ship’s arrival, Maximenko and Hafner met with Captain Vasily Sviridenko and Natalia V. Borodina, information and education mate. Maximenko, a native of Russia, described in fluent Russian where the debris might be found, pointing to the September 11 map of the estimated locations.
The captain is seriously concerned about the debris, according to translation by Borodina. “The reason the huge commercial vessels traveling the North Pacific have not reported anything,” the captain said, “is because they cut through such stuff like through butter.” For the Pallada, although one of the largest tall ships plying the seas, the debris is very dangerous. With its 300-foot length, it is a small ship by today’s standards. “It is especially vulnerable as its hull is thin,” the captain explained.
When asked whether he will help, the captain replied, “Sure! I will have our eager young cadets be on the look-out for debris 24 hours a day.” The safety of his crew is of primary concern.
“What we need are verbal descriptions of what you see floating in the ocean,” said Maximenko. “Take photos, and if possible, even take samples. Objects might be hard to see as they might be camouflaged, covered with algae and other marine life. Negative data, that is regions free of debris, is also useful information and helps to determine the edge of the field."
The ship has Geiger counters to measure radio activity. Although Maximenko thinks the debris will likely not be radioactive as it washed into the ocean nearly two weeks before the leakage of water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, no theorizing can substitute for direct measurements.
The Pallada will be back in its homeport Vladivostok in mid-October. What will she find? Will the tsunami debris be detected and its existence be realized?
The original statistical model animation can be seen at: http://iprc.soest.hawaii.edu/users/nikolai/2011/Pacific_Islands/Simulation_of_Debris_from_March_11_2011_Japan_tsunami.gif.
The model that is updated every day with current winds and sea level can be viewed at: http://iprc.soest.hawaii.edu/users/hafner/PUBLIC/TSUNAMI_DEBRIS/tsunami_tracers_no_vector_large.html.