The massive tsunami that struck northeastern Japan three years ago dragged many things out to sea, including a small blue boat that spent three years adrift before finally ending up on the shores of eastern Taiwan on Sunday.
The battered boat was found overturned on the shore of Taitung County’s Daren Township (達仁).
Wang Yao-tsung (王耀聰), a coast guard official stationed in the eastern county, on Monday said he was amazed by the discovery, describing it as “something out of a science-fiction story.”
Wang said he initially suspected the boat had been used to illegally land in Taiwan, but a military unit he asked to find further information determined the boat, MG3-44187, came from Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas hit hardest by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
How the empty vessel ended up 2,700km southwest on a beach in Taitung is not known, but considering how long it had been drifting at sea, it is likely it took a long route — and may have first visited the western US.
National Taiwan Ocean University professor Hu Jian-hwa (胡健驊) proposed three possible routes the boat could have drifted, with the longest logging close to 20,000km.
On that route, the boat would have been carried to the northwestern coast of the US before being picked up by the California Current to the equator, where it met with the Kuroshio Current, which pulled it north to Taitung, Hu said.
A shorter route of about 10,000km would involve the boat being carried on whirlpools to the equator before hitching a ride on the Kuroshio Current, while an even more direct path would have the whirlpools carrying it straight to Taiwan, Hu said.
In that case, it would make sense for the journey to have lasted three years since the boat could have been slowed down by the numerous whirlpools in the Pacific Ocean, Hu added.