Geologist to chronicle story of tsunami boat’s return

Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate November 20, 2013 04:28 pm

 

Lori Dengler will speak Wed. at HSU 

HSU professor Lori Dengler, second from left, met with school, city and museum representatives in Rikuzentakata, Japan, after the return of a boat that beached in Crescent City.
HSU professor Lori Dengler, second from left, met with school, city and museum representatives in Rikuzentakata, Japan, after the return of a boat that beached in Crescent City. Photo courtesy of Lori Dengler
Humboldt State University geologist Lori Dengler, considered a global expert on tsunami education and mitigation, said there are two different types of tsunami connections.

There’s the direct connection between a 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011 and the destructive  tsunami generated by the quake that wrecked Crescent City Harbor.

Then there’s the indirect connection between a 20-foot boat ripped from the shores of Rikuzentakata, Japan, during that natural catastrophe and the vessel’s celebrated beaching on the shores of Crescent City.

Dengler will chronicle the story of this boat that was owned by Rikuzentakata’s high school and has become a symbol of hope for the town that lost nearly 2,000 people, during a presentation titled “Takata High School’s Boat: Tsunami Connections Between Northern California and Japan” at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Kate Buchanan room of HSU.

Dengler recently returned from a trip 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.

“Fishermen knew that boat and made sure to stay far away from it because there were usually students diving nearby,” Dengler said.

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.

“Eighty percent of the city was completely destroyed,” Dengler said. “It’s hard to believe it until you see it, but they just pretty much lost everything.”

Dengler visited a former elementary school that is serving as a replacement for the town’s museum and will house the boat, which was returned in late October.

The vessel was salvaged by the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office in April, and with the help of Dengler and Facebook it was soon traced back to Rikuzentakata. It ultimately became the only piece of debris in California to be officially traced back to the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Students from Del Norte High School cleaned the boat, helped in its return to Japan and have raised money to visit the town in February, continuing to strengthen a bond between the two cities across the Pacific.

“You think of the Pacific as being this big ocean,  and yet we are very much tied to Japan,” Dengler said.

With scientists predicting that the coast from Northern California to British Columbia could be impacted by a similarly large earthquake and tsunami on the Cascadia subduction zone any day, Dengler said it’s important for our community to relate with Japan.

During the presentation, Dengler will also share what she witnessed in Rikuzentakata’s recovery efforts, where the town is combating the permit-intensive bureaucracy of government while deciding how and where to rebuild.

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