'A similar earthquake and tsunami could just as easily happen here'
NEWPORT, Ore. - A new exhibit featuring a portion of a dock that washed ashore near Newport more than a year after the devastating March 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami will open on Sunday, March 10, at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
The unveiling of the tsunami awareness exhibit will begin at 2 p.m. at the center, located at 2030 Marine Science Drive in Newport, just southeast of the Highway 101 bridge. It is free and open to the public.
The opening and dedication takes place two years after a massive earthquake rattled northern Japan, triggering a tsunami that killed thousands of people. The tsunami also inundated Japan's coastline and ripped loose at least three massive docks from the city of Misawa, one of which floated across the Pacific Ocean and washed ashore just north of Newport near Agate Beach in early June of 2012.
A slice of the dock was cut away and preserved, and will serve as an educational exhibit and memorial to the events that brought it to Oregon.
"The exhibit will be a vivid reminder that a similar earthquake and tsunami could just as easily happen here in the Pacific Northwest," said Janet Webster, interim director of OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center. "The exhibit also will highlight the risk from invasive species, and detail the journey of the dock from Misawa to Newport."
Webster said the dock has been of great interest to the public and to scientists since it arrived at Agate Beach. It drew thousands of visitors to the coast before it was carted away and cut into pieces, and captured the attention of biologists who rushed to examine the dozens of living organisms attached to the structure.
Television crews from Japan have visited the OSU center several times to follow up on the story, and the arrival of other tsunami debris up and down the coast brings another wave of attention.
Shawn Rowe, an OSU free-choice learning specialist based at Hatfield, said the exhibit provides a good opportunity to broaden public awareness about earthquakes, tsunamis, invasive species, and preparedness. It resonates with the public, he noted, because it had not occurred in recorded history.
"It was a unique confluence of circumstances that led to the dock arriving in Newport," Rowe pointed out. "While fishing floats, logs and debris arrive on the West Coast from Asia with some regularity, rarely does a structure this large that had been anchored for years in an inlet in Japan - and thus accumulating local seaweeds and organisms - rip loose and journey across the ocean."
The Hatfield Marine Science Center recently installed a tsunami interpretive trail beginning at the center, which highlights an evacuation route to higher ground for employees, residents and visitors to Newport's South Beach peninsula.