University of Hawaii System newsletter

Russian Tall Ship Searching for Tsunami Debris

Posted on | September 16, 2011 | Comments Off on Russian Tall Ship Searching for Tsunami Debris

3 men

From left, Jan Hafner, Captain Vasily Sviridenko and Nikolai Maximenko. Photo courtesy of Beatrix Hu.

Shortly after the devastating tsunami in Japan on March 11, aerial photographs and satellite images captured massive islands of lumber and other debris floating in the sea. Less than a month later the debris had mysteriously disappeared from view and virtually nothing has been heard of it since.

An animation model created by Mānoa’s International Pacific Research Center caught the attention of the media worldwide. Senior Researcher Nikolai Maximenko and Scientific Computer Programmer Jan Hafner, the developers of the animation, have been inundated with questions about where the debris is now.

Eager to validate their projections, the two scientists have enlisted the help of the Russian three-master sailing ship, the STS Pallada, which docked in Honolulu on Sept. 11. The Pallada 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.

Maximenko and Hafner met with Captain Vasily Sviridenko and Natalia V. Borodina, information and education mate. Maximenko, a native of Russia, described where the debris might be found. The captain said that he will have his cadets be on the look-out for debris 24 hours a day.

“The reason the huge commercial vessels traveling the North Pacific have not reported anything is because they cut through such stuff like through butter,” says the captain. For the Pallada the debris is very dangerous. “It is especially vulnerable as its hull is thin.”

Read more about the partnership.