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Japanese Dock Lost in 2011 Tsunami Removed from Washington’s Olympic Coast

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March 19, 2013 -- Workers dismantling the dock from Misawa, Japan, which washed up on Washington's Olympic Coast. (National Park Service/John Gussman)

March 19, 2013 — Workers dismantling the dock from Misawa, Japan, which washed up on Washington’s Olympic Coast in December of 2012. (National Park Service/John Gussman)

A large Japanese dock swept across the Pacific Ocean after the March 2011 tsunami has now been removed from Washington’s Olympic Coast. Cleanup workers from the Washington-based contractor, The Undersea Company, carried off the last of the now-deconstructed dock’s concrete and plastic foam from the beach where it washed ashore.

Removal work, which occurred inside Olympic National Park and NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, began on March 17 and concluded March 25, 2013. You can watch a time-lapse video of the dock’s removal (and related videos):

“This operation was challenging—imagine opening up a 185-ton concrete package filled with foam packing peanuts while standing near a helicopter on an extremely remote coastline,” said John Nesset, president and C.E.O. of The Undersea Company, in a NOAA press release.

March 19, 2013 -- Crews remove foam blocks from a cut-open section of the Japanese floating dock, which beached inside both a national park and national marine sanctuary. (National Park Service/John Gussman)

March 19, 2013 — Crews remove foam blocks from a cut-open section of the Japanese floating dock, which beached inside both a national park and national marine sanctuary. (National Park Service/John Gussman)

The dock, weighing 185 tons and measuring 65 feet in length, initially stranded on the Washington coast last December after it and two other docks were torn away from the Port of Misawa, Japan, during the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

In previous posts, NOAA mentioned that this dock and the one found near Newport, Ore., in June of 2012 were among four docks washed away from Misawa—but we are told that only three docks left the port. The Consulate-General of Japan has alerted us that “earlier news reports erroneously stated that a fourth dock was located on an island in Japan.”

The NOAA Marine Debris Blog expands further on the whereabouts of the docks:

“According to the Consulate-General of Japan, three of the four floating docks located at the Misawa Fishing Port washed away when the tsunami struck. Fishermen reportedly spotted the third missing dock floating near Oahu, north of Molokai, in Hawaii in September. It has not been located since.”

An interesting aspect is that these three docks were wrenched away from the same port in Japan at the same time during the tsunami in March of 2011. Yet, as NOAA oceanographers know quite well, predicting where the Pacific Ocean’s currents and winds might carry and eventually deposit them (and when) is a tricky task.

March 18, 2013 -- The remoteness of the location where the Japanese dock beached required a helicopter to lift loads of foam taken out of the inside of the deconstructed dock. (National Park Service/John Gussman)

March 18, 2013 — The remoteness of the location where the Japanese dock beached required a helicopter to lift loads of foam taken out of the inside of the deconstructed dock. (National Park Service/John Gussman)

So far, “one washed up on Oregon’s coast last summer, and a second beached along Washington’s coastline in December,” pointed out Asma Mahdi of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. “Two identical debris pieces that left Japan’s coast at the same time made the journey across the Pacific, but they ended up on the U.S. West Coast six months apart and in very different locations. How can we predict where marine debris will end up?”

You can gather some insight into these complexities in the latest Diving Deeper podcast from the National Ocean Service.

Sherry Lippiatt, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s California Regional Coordinator, discusses how objects in the ocean are navigating a dynamic environment, which can affect everything from a plastic bottle to a floating dock.

Listen to the podcast here:


Author: Office of Response and Restoration

The National Ocean Service's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific solutions for marine pollution. A part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), OR&R is a center of expertise in preparing for, evaluating, and responding to threats to coastal environments. These threats could be oil and chemical spills, releases from hazardous waste sites, or marine debris.

4 thoughts on “Japanese Dock Lost in 2011 Tsunami Removed from Washington’s Olympic Coast

  1. well that’s good but what about the other debris that is coming in from pt grenville to the entrance of grays harbor. look in my yard in moclips wa. beach approach

  2. Too Much Too Late
    Once the “dock” or raft reached the beach it was a little too late to stop “Mother Nature” from using proven survival techniques to spread Japanese/Asian species from migrating. . . .the Japanese current, large trees and debris rafts from previous tsunamis have been aiding in this effort since the continental landmasses separated . . . why are we spending so many “tax dollars” to “prevent” this invasion just because the raft is concrete and plastic this time ?!. . . sounds like “bureaucratic justification” to me

    • Hi Steve, it is important to remove the dock because it was located within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and within a designated wilderness portion of Olympic National Park. Resource protection and visitor safety are fundamental to the mission of both agencies.

      The dock weighed about 185 tons and was 65 feet long, 20 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall. Although the dock stayed in the same general location since its arrival on the beach, it was still quite mobile in the surf. As changing tides and waves continued to shift and move the dock, the dock would have continued to batter the coastline, creating a hazard for visitors and wildlife and damaging both the coastal environment and the dock. The intertidal area of the Olympic Coast is home to the most diverse ecosystem of marine invertebrates and seaweeds on the west coast of North America.

      Most of the dock’s volume was Styrofoam-type material, which is encased in steel reinforced concrete. The concrete had already been damaged, exposing rebar and releasing foam into the ocean and onto the beach where it could potentially be ingested by fish, birds and marine mammals. Leaving the dock in place could have resulted in the release of over 200 cubic yards of foam into federally protected waters and wilderness coast. More information is available here: http://marinedebris.wa.gov/incidents/ForksDock.html

      More than three-quarters of the removal effort was paid for with funds provided to NOAA from the government of Japan to help with cleanup of marine debris from the tsunami. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the national park also contributed funding to the removal costs.

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