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Things they lost in a tsunami

IN MARCH of last year, after a violent spring storm, Sheila Williams took her long-legged Afghan hound, Saffy, out for a walk on the Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet, on the southwestern tip of Vancouver Island. Off the trail, at the end of an unmarked path in an unnamed cove, they found a white and blue rubber house slipper with Asian characters. Williams wondered if it could have made its way from the tsunami-ravaged east coast of Japan, and headed to an Asian supermarket to ask for a translation.

A few weeks later, the ghost ship Ryou-Un Maru was spotted off the BC coast, just one wreck among the estimated five million metric tons of debris washed into the ocean from Japan by the 2011 tsunami. About 30 percent of that flotsam now drifts across an area in the North Pacific roughly three times the size of the continental US (the rest sank). It is impossible to know when, where, or in what quantities the debris will land on the west coast of North America, but the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that it will begin arriving en masse with the early winter storms of this year.

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