Posted by: Katie Transue
“It’s a whale” yells Tracey from above deck. The day before we had had a Sperm Whale breach within a 100 meters of the ship and we hoped our luck would give us something similar. But there was no breaching and no blowhole spouting from the object in the distance. “Is its fin just sticking out of the water?” As we come up onto the object, we realize it’s not a whale.
“It’s a boat!” I yell. Indeed it is, the front third of a small skiff, bobbing vertically, bow out of the water. On either side of her are Japanese characters, and it becomes instantly clear what we’ve found. Here,1500 miles east of Japan, we’ve found a boat presumably ripped from its mooring when the wave hit. Everyday now, we’re spotting something—a spare tire from a light truck, a piece of traditional Japanese flooring, and several other objects that may or may not be from the tsunami.
We dive on her to survey what we can’t see beneath. In the water, there is little growth on the boat—just a few barnacles, maybe five or so. Tucked in the inside are probably 50 or 60 fish; Triggers, Rainbow Runners and some species that look clearly out of place—tropical coral dwelling fish. As we approach they scatter, then return. What’s now a wreck of a boat has become a floating reef system for this crowd. We consider the depths below us, some 5,000 meters and the distance to land. Nothing makes one aware of powerlessness like swimming in the middle of the ocean, unattached from our home and lifeline; our ship.
The back 2/3rds of the skiff are gone,the edges are jagged which denotes some past violent action tearing the boat apart. A small frayed line remains from a wooden beam in the front of the boat which was presumably a painter line that had been torn from it’s mooring when the wall of water engulfed her. There is feeling of gravity, this was someone’s boat. The feeling in the water is eerie, haunting. What brings solace is that the mooring line clearly looks ripped, which makes us deduce that most likely this boat was tied to a dock at the time of the wave; most likely no life was lost on her when the tsunami struck—at least that’s our hope.
Now, after some considerable effort, the remains of the skiff reside on the bow of Sea Dragon as we sail east. We hope that her name depicted in these pictures, will get to its owner, and we hope that we hear they are safe. Our hearts are always with you on this voyage Japan. ~Stiv~