April 26, 2012

Many of my readers were interested in yesterday’s "Writing Wednesday" story about the soccer ball belonging to a Japanese student that washed up on an Alaskan island more than a year after the big tsunami.

This is a photograph of Misaki Murakami, the teenager whose ball traveled nearly 3,500 miles (5,600 km) across the Pacific Ocean, from Rikuzentakata, Japan to Middleton Island, in Alaska.

In fact, it is not surprising that the ball showed up on the U.S. coastline - scientists expect that we will see even more debris in the coming weeks and months.


The reason is that when water rises or falls very quickly, it often creates a whirlpool. Think about what happens in the bathtub when you pull the plug and water starts emptying quickly out of the tub - you see a spinning whirlpool above the drain. This is what happens, on a much bigger scale, when a huge tsunami wave rushes in, and then pulls back from the shoreline.


This is a photograph, taken from a helicopter, of one of the massive whirlpools that appeared off the Japanese coast in March, 2011 after the 6.9 earthquake and tsunami. The water was rotating clockwise, which means it was pushing debris away from the coastline, into the Pacific Ocean, and toward the U.S. coast.





And that explains why Misaki’s soccer ball washed up on a beach in Alaska.


Seymour Simon’s new book, EXTREME EARTH RECORDS, is full of information and photographs about the biggest tsunamis, earthquakes, and many more Earth record breakers. It will be available in September, 2012.




Posted by: Seymour Simon

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