Japanese Tsunami Debris Carried New Species to U.S.

It's still coming, six years later.
A Japanese vessel coated with sea creatures made its way to Washington after the tsunami.
09_28_tsunami_debris Source: Russ Lewis

March 11, 2011, had started like any other for thousands of mussels along the Japanese coastline, another busy day clinging to docks and straining snacks out of the water. Until 2:46 p.m. local time, that is, when two warring chunks of the Earth’s crust set off six minutes of ground-shattering quakes, then a series of gigantic waves powerful enough to crush three-story buildings and rip docks off their coastlines.

That’s when those mussels set off on an incredible adventure across the Pacific Ocean. In the six years since, just a small sample of that debris—much of it plastic—has carried living individuals of almost 300 species.

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