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State tries to sleuth metal object’s origin

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    Courtesy The Ka'u Calendar Newspaper A large metal object that could be a pontoon for a floating dock has washed ashore near Naalehu on Hawaii island. The barnacle-encrusted structure was discovered last week by hikers. State and federal officials have yet to determine whether it is debris from the March 2011 tsunami that hit Japan.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is looking for answers to two important questions regarding the giant yellow metal object that recently washed ashore four miles south of Naalehu on Hawaii island: Where did it come from? Where is it going?

Hikers discovered the circular container Wednesday. Another person claims to have seen it at Wai­ka­puna on Sept. 27.

A DLNR staff member located the object Friday at the end of a fishing trail on private land and reported that there were no identifying marks and only minimal algal growth on it.

DLNR spokeswoman Debo­rah Ward said her department is checking to see whether the object might have originated locally. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the possibility that the object is debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan.

WARD said DLNR is also looking at options for removing the massive object, which is 10 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter.

To date, only two pieces of debris discovered on Hawaii shores — a plastic bin found on Oahu and a 16-foot skiff discovered floating off Maui — have been confirmed as having originated in Japan.

An estimated 1.5 million tons of debris is floating in the North Pacific from the tsunami that resulted from the magnitude-9.0 earthquake off Japan on March 11, 2011.

The public is asked to report findings of possible Japa­nese tsunami marine debris to DLNR at 587-0400 or, as well as NOAA at Both agencies are asking for photos, date, a detailed description of the item (including whether there are any living organisms other than gooseneck barnacles on it), location and the finder’s contact information.

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