Out of all the mysterious items that the Pacific Ocean sets on Del Norte County’s sandy shores there have been few that tell a more compelling tale than the “Miracle Boat” and its 5,000-mile journey from Japan.
A chance to hear the story of the 20-foot boat that was ripped to sea during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami and washed ashore more than two years later just a mile south of Crescent City Harbor will be at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Crescent Fire Protection District, 255 W. Washington Blvd., Crescent City.
Lori Dengler, a Humboldt State University geologist considered a global expert on tsunami education and mitigation, will give a presentation titled “Takata High School’s Boat: Tsunami Connections Between Northern California and Japan.”
Last fall, Dengler travelled to Rikuzentakata to celebrate the successful return of the boat to its owners: Takata High School.
While touring the former school premises with the janitor of Takata High School, Dengler learned that the boat, named Kamome (Seagull in Japan), was primarily used by the school’s marine systems department for students learning how to scuba dive.
The boat has become a symbol of resilience and survival for a small coastal town that lost nearly 10 percent of its population and saw the vast majority of its buildings leveled.
Additionally, Del Norte High School students, teachers and local first responders will share their experience from last week’s trip to Rikuzentakata, Japan, where the boat originated.
The group had a jam-packed itinerary that included meeting with meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, presenting in front of the mayor of Rikuzentakata and the governor of Iwate prefecture, and experiencing what it’s like to be a high school student in a small Japanese coastal town.
Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office commander Bill Steven said that it was striking to see the similarities between Crescent City and Rikuzentakata: both have rugged coastlines bordered by mountains, similar economic histories with fishing and logging, and both cities have been devastated at one time by a catastrophic tsunami.
Without a doubt, Steven said, the best part of the trip was watching Del Norte high school students and Japanese high school students interact with each other through a variety of activities, sporting wide smiles the whole time.
“That was just priceless,” Steven said.
That priceless student cultural exchange and the Miracle Boat story that got it started will all be shared at Wednesday’s free event open to the public.