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US scientists thank RF ship crew for help in Japan tsunami study

October 26, 2011, 15:57 UTC+3

The centre’s employees are grateful to the Pallada crew the help of which made it possible to confirm the preliminary findings

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LOS ANGELES, October 26 (Itar-Tass) — The crew of the Russian sailing ship Pallada helped American scientists to determine where solid waste washed away by the tsunami in Japan in March this year is drifting in the Pacific Ocean, and when the debris mass will reach the US shores, principal researcher in the project, oceanographer Nikolai Maximenko and research computer programming expert Jan Hafner of the International Pacific Research Centre, University of Hawaii said on Tuesday.

According to their calculations, the debris with a mass of up to 20 million tonnes, including refrigerators, television sets, fragments of building structures, fishing nets, shoes and even a fishing boat from Fukushima Prefecture, will reach the coast of the US state of Hawaii in early 2013, and by 2014 – the coastal states of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, as well as Canada. Maximenko and Hafner told The Associated Press that the area of dispersal of floating debris is estimated at 3.2 thousand km in length and 1.6 thousand km in width. Scientists are trying to determine which part of this layer will sink and which will reach the shores of the United States and Canada.

The centre’s employees are grateful to the Pallada crew the help of which made it possible to confirm the preliminary findings. During the Russian sailing ship’s call at Honolulu in September, the captain of the vessel agreed during the voyage back to Vladivostok to help US researchers. The latter were tracking the movement of the debris masses through satellites and other surveillance equipment. A month after the tsunami in Japan the traces of washed off debris disappeared from the images, and the dense masses of wood, tires can pose a serious obstacle to navigation of small vessels. The command of the Russian sailing ship kept the promise, transmitting the required information to the Honolulu centre. “From a scientific point of view, it was confirmation that our research was doing something right,” Hafner told the AP. “It was big news for us. But it was mixed feelings because you can’t be excited about something as tragic as a tsunami.”

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake produced the sort of devastation Japan hadn't seen since World War II, leaving more than 21,000 dead or injured. The tsunami that followed engulfed the northeast and wiped out entire towns. The waves inundated the Fukushima plant, triggering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. However, it's highly unlikely the tsunami-generated debris would be contaminated with radioactive material, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's marine debris program. NOAA is also gathering information about debris sightings. After news of the Russian ship's findings, the scientists have been receiving calls from media worldwide, AP reported.

The scientists want boaters venturing in the area of the debris to send them details about what they see. Researchers want to know details such as GPS position, time, weather and descriptions of the items. “We are trying to get across our message that it is coming and it’s about time to start planning some action,” Hafner said.

The Russian sailing ship Pallada, belonging to the Far Eastern State Technical Fisheries University, returned to Vladivostok on October 8. The cadets and crew of the ship got acquainted with North America’s lands that were discovered and developed several centuries ago by Russian sailors and explorers. The Pallada has visited Kodiak and Sitka in Alaska, Victoria, Canada, the American cities of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Honolulu.

According to Alaska Dispatch, the STS Pallada - a 354-foot, three-masted frigate styled to resemble a “tall ship” from the golden age of sail - was heading home after spending three months cruising the North Pacific with a crew of cadets from the Russian Far Eastern State Technical Fisheries University.

Since it was launched in 1989, the Pallada has visited 101 ports in 35 countries while training 12,000 Russian cadets, midshipmen and students, according to this story. With 26 sails covering more than two-thirds of an acre of area, area, the vessel has been clocked at 18 knots, earning it a listing as the world's fastest sailing ship by Guinness World Book of Records.

The 2011 goodwill tour commemorated the 270th anniversary of the colonisation of Alaska by Russia and the 50th anniversary of the first manned flight into space cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin. During the 15,000-mile voyage, the ship visited Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Victoria, Honolulu - plus the long-ago Russian outpost of Kodiak. By late September, the ship was underway toward its homeport, crossing deep ocean about 1,700 miles northwest of Hawaii. That's where it began bumping into tsunami trash - right where the computer model predicted they would. And on it went: mile after mile, day after day.


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