Runaway dock in Hawaii from Misawa, Japan, scientist says - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Runaway dock in Hawaii from Misawa, Japan, scientist says

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

New developments in our exclusive story on the Japanese dock floating around Hawaii.  A marine science expert believes it is one of four missing docks that broke away during the tsunami.

There was no new sighting of the dock Friday.  Scientists are hoping it will be seen again because the information onboard could valuable.

The runaway dock was last seen floating 15 miles north of Molokai Wednesday evening.  It's believed to be one of four that came from Misawa, Japan.  Compared with pictures of what the Misawa docks looked like before the tsunami, it has all the similar markings.  But the tell tale sign is a plaque which the fisherman saw on the dock which is the same marking that was on a dock that washed up in Oregon.

"It's just identical and as I said there are four of them, now we have two so there are two more out there somewhere," said Jim Carlton, Marine Sciences Professor, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts. "This is pretty exciting to know that one of these docks has been located in the very large Pacific Ocean."

Professor Carlton studied the dock found in Oregon in June.  He's positive the one spotted in Hawaii this week is one of the docks from Misawa.

He says it's massive at 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and seven feet tall.  It weighs 188 tons.

The Coast Guard has broadcast a warning to all mariners to be on the lookout however they are not actively looking for it. The government is taking a wait and see approach until it's spotted again.

"In an abundance of caution, the Coast Guard is periodically sending out a Broadcast Notice to Mariners. We would also like to remind mariners as always to remain on the lookout for debris or any other dangers while at sea," said Cmdr. Martin Smith, chief of marine environmental response for the 14th Coast Guard District, in a written statement.

"It is a massive structure and if it comes ashore there certainly could be a number of environmental issues, not only in terms of what it hits and where it lands but also in terms of some of the invasive species," said Prof. Carlton.

There were 100 different species from Japan living on the dock when it arrived in Oregon and Prof. Carlton predicts the same species will be on the one floating near Hawaii.

"It's not something we wish for but something I think would make a terrific scientific opportunity," said Prof. Carlton.  "So it's really an interesting story in marine biology in terms of dispersal and especially for the history of the colonization of the Hawaiian Islands. We're very interested in how some of the native species got there originally. There has been a lot of speculation about what could have floated there over millions of years on various logs. Who are the survivors that can live in a long ocean transit?"

Professor Carlton says the docks broke away well before the nuclear disaster at Fukushima so there is virtually no chance of radiation contamination.

Carlton is more than an ocean away living in Connecticut, but he's ready to bring his experience to Hawaii.

"The bags are packed and ready to go and we'll see if the dock can be relocated," said Prof. Carlton. "If we can get a hold of this thing while still at sea it gives us more management options than if it lands on the shore. It's so massive and so huge getting off the shore could be an issue. If it's still floating and out there at least we can get our hands on it and perhaps tow it somewhere we can manage and deal with it."

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources sent an email Friday evening which said "DLNR is working with its federal partners to locate and track the floating dock last reported north of Molokai.  The Department is considering all of our options for handling of the dock and working on contingency plans in coordination with other agencies, to protect marine resources and prevent its arrival in nearshore areas."

"We invite fishers and boaters or pilots to contact DLNR main administrative numbers at (808) 587-0400 to report timely sightings and locations. If it is after hours they should leave a detailed message of the location, GPS if available, description of debris, and their contact information (optional) so staff can follow up with further questions if needed. We are working to set-up a specific number for tsunami debris but for now people can call the main line (808) 587-0400 and the information will be forwarded to the correct staff depending on the area," the advisory said.

You can also send NOAA an email at

If you see the dock or other tsunami debris you can also call us at 808-847-1112 or send us a message or picture on Facebook or to our email at

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.


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