Tsunami debris draws crowd on Oregon Coast

Tsunami debris draws crowd on Oregon Coast
A placard on the dock. Photo courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Small crowds of people have been showing up on the beach to see a large dock that floated ashore from last year's tsunami in Japan.

"I think that's going to change to large crowds," said Chris Havel, Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation spokesman.

The dock carried a metal placard naming the manufacturer and dated June 2008.

The Japanese consulate in Portland, Ore., traced the nearly 70-foot-long concrete and steel floating dock to a manufacturer in Japan. He also confirmed the dock was in use in an area of Japan hit by the giant waves.

A radiation check came up negative, but an examination by a Hatfield Marine Science Center scientist revealed a starfish native to Japan, Havel said. The parks department was overseeing efforts to identify and remove the dock.

Havel said the department would be responsible for removing the barge, which remained on the beach Wednesday morning. The plaque has been put in storage. It was not yet determined whether the barge would be towed off the beach and floated somewhere for disposal, or cut up on the beach for removal.

The dock was first spotted floating offshore Monday, and washed ashore early Tuesday on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport on the central Oregon Coast. It's made of concrete with a metal pontoon and measures 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and 7 feet high.

State police were posted to keep people from climbing on the dock, said Mitch Vance, shellfish program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Vance took samples of the mussels, barnacles and other shellfish clinging to the dock Wednesday morning. There also was green algae and brown kelp, he said.

There was no answer at the Tokyo-listed phone number for Zeniya Ocean Service Engineering Ltd., the company named on the placard, after business hours in Japan.

Fast-moving debris from the tsunami has begun arriving on North America's shores. It includes a soccer ball that washed up in Alaska, and a shipping container holding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with Japanese license plates that turned up in British Columbia.

The bulk of the debris is not expected until winter.