Skip to main content

Soccer ball washed up in Alaska traced to tsunami-hit area of Japan

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
April 23, 2012 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
  • A beach comber on a remote Alaskan island finds a soccer ball
  • Writing on the ball show it is from the area of Japan hit by the tsunami last year
  • A Japanese teenager reportedly says he has "no doubt" the ball is his
  • The ball may be the first identifiable item of tsunami debris that could be returned

Lea este artículo en español/Read this article in Spanish

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A soccer ball recently found washed up on a remote Alaskan beach apparently belongs to a teenager from a city devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan more than a year ago.

And it may soon be returned to its owner more than 3,000 miles away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

David Baxter, a technician at the radar station on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, came across the ball as he was beach combing.

The ball had Japanese characters written on it, from which Baxter's wife was able to translate the name of a school that was in the area hit by the tsunami, according to a blog post by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coast Guard shells 'ghost ship'
2011: Japan's devastating tsunami

An enormous amount of debris was swept into the Pacific by the tsunami that hit northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, killing thousands of people.

A number of objects, both large and small, have so far made their way as far as the coast of North America, including a rusty fishing trawler that the U.S. Coast Guard sank earlier this month. But the ball "may be the first identifiable item that could be returned," according to the NOAA.

Misaki Murakami, a 16-year-old high school student, says he has "no doubt" that the ball is his after hearing that his name was among the characters written on it, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Sunday.

Murakami, who is from the severely tsunami-damaged city of Rikuzentakata, said he was surprised but thankful to Baxter for finding the ball, according to Kyodo.

He can be grateful for Baxter's interest in beach combing, a popular pastime on Middleton, according to the NOAA, which describes the 4.5-mile-long island as "treeless and windswept."

The agency, which has been monitoring tsunami debris, said it was working with the U.S. State Department, the Japanese Embassy, and the Japanese consulate in Seattle to establish a process to return items that may be found in the future.

Not all objects will find their way home, though. A volleyball found on the U.S. side of the ocean "doesn't have enough information" on it to trace its owner, the NOAA said.

CNN's Ric Ward contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.