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Ball Lost in Tsunami, Found In Alaska

April 23rd, 2012

Japanese soccer ball washed to shore in U.S. Photo credit: NOAA/David Baxter

A soccer ball washed away in last year’s tsunami in Japan has been found a year later … over 3,000 miles (5,100 km) away in Alaska!

Even more incredibly, the man who found the ball on the beach, David Baxter, and his wife, Yumi, who speaks Japanese, were able to track down its owner to let him know, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The ball apparently belongs to 16-year old, Misaki Murakami. His name was written on the ball he got as a goodbye present when he transfered to another school in 3rd grade, seven years ago. The ball also had words of encouragement on it for him.

Front page of The Japan Times, April 23, 2012. Misaki Murakami, left. David and Yumi Baxter, right. Photo credit: Flickr user Nemo's great uncle via Creative Commons

Murakami says he lost his home and everything he owned when the tsunami swept it away. He told Japanese news station NHK that, “It was a big surprise. I’ve never imagined that my ball has reached Alaska. I’ve lost everything in the tsunami so I am delighted. I really want to say thank you for finding the ball.”  A Japanese reporter also helped make the connection, according to the AP.

Mr. Baxter also found a volleyball washed up on shore with only a first name on it. The AP is today reporting that its owner has been found too, even though there was less information to go on. That ball reportedly belongs to 19-year old Shiori Sato. Her reaction, when interviewed by NHK was, “I think it’s a miracle.”

The ball's approximate route from Japan to Alaska. Original map/imagery: Google/NASA/TerraMetrics/INEGI/TeleAtlas

A lot more debris is expected to wash up in places along the west coast of Canada and the United States as waves move across the Pacific Ocean. The soccer ball and volleyball seem to be some of the first, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who also tracks debris . Much more of it is expected in 2013 and 2014.  These were also probably some of the few items that can be reunited with its owner because they were labeled.

The soccer ball is going to be sent back to its owner soon, likely the volleyball too.

It’s a little bit of good news in an otherwise enormous tragedy.

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