Hidden danger

Tsunami debris

The boat above is the Saishomaru, a Japanese fishing boat that is on display in the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. It washed ashore at Cape Disappointment, Washington, part of a pulse of tsunami debris that flowed to the U.S. West Coast after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan and killed over 18,000 people.

I was reminded of this debris when I read in the local paper Thursday that earthquake scientists who are studying earthquake faults in this region are puzzling over the inactivity of the Cascadia fault zone that runs along the West Coast from Northern California to Vancouver Island. Compared with other zones in the region, this one is “extraordinarily quiet” — not a good thing, geologically speaking. Most faults do some slipping and sliding, which relieves the stress that builds as the massive plates of the earth’s crust strike and move across one another. Scientists are concerned that the Cascadia fault may be “locked,” or stuck in one place as pressure to move mounts up, in this case over centuries. The more pressure that builds, the bigger the quake — and tsunami — that is eventually released. It could release a magnitude 9.0 quake, truly a monster tremor.

It might never happen in our lifetimes. I certainly hope it doesn’t. But the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is a frightening reminder of what might happen here.

11 thoughts on “Hidden danger”

  1. I am surprised at how far the debris has wandered. That is a great distance. There is no place on the planet that is safe from natural disasters. Past has history has taught us they can and will happen anywhere.

  2. I have read about the debris washing up, but this boat looks in pretty good shape.

    But now I’ve got to worry about you! I had heard about the fault line, but had no idea that it could be so dangerous. You could move to Florida, but we’ve got our own problems with hurricanes and now the rising seas. Downtown Miami is already 3-4 inches under water in some places at high tide. If it gets bad enough, everyone will move to Ocala. Won’t that be fun? Aaargh!

    1. @Lowell…the detail doesn’t show so well because I wanted to get the whole boat into the shot but there’s a gaping hole midway down the side of this boat. It could be repaired but the 72 year-old owner, though grateful, declined to have it returned to him.

  3. It’s amazing how much Japanese debris has landed on the PNW shores! I guess it would be hard to live in Washington and not worry a little about the possibilities of a huge earthquake but I hope the worry doesn’t consume too much of your time.

  4. Beautiful view looking out. I’ve read a good deal of material on quakes in that part of the world, and even a novel that uses the Cascadia fault line as an element of the plotline. Definitely sends a chill down the spine in terms of the damage that the area can be inflicted to.

  5. Your tale of a boat that traveled all the way across the ocean after the tsunami is fascinating, but your explanation of the quiet fault is terrifying!

  6. I’m hoping it doesn’t happen either. I’ve been in more than enough big earthquakes – the Good Friday one in Alaska in the 60s – another huge one in the southern CA desert in the late 70s – plus dozens and dozens of others – I’ve had enough, thank you very much. The boat is amazing in that it came all that distance.

  7. Nice that they are putting some of these items on display. Mother Nature is certainly a powerful force. We think we can tame her, but we’re wrong most of the time.

  8. Despite the gaping hole, it nonetheless looks like it are the journey in pretty good shape. The news about the possibility of quake activity in California and the resulting devastation certainly gives one pause!! A price to pay for living in the area…pretty scary.

Comments are closed.