A soccer ball that washed up on an Alaskan beach 3,000 miles from its home will be returned to its original Japanese owner. David Baxter discovered the ball on a beach Alaska’s Middleton Island; the radar technician had his Japanese wife translate the writing on it, allowing him to track down the 16-year old owner.
The ball belonged to Misaki Murakami, who had received the ball as a gift when he moved to Rikuzentakata in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture seven years ago. Iwate was the region most devastated by the March 2011 tsunami that followed a 9.0 earthquake. Enormous amounts of debris were swept into the Pacific Ocean.
The ball is part of the first wave of detritus to hit shores on the opposite side of the Pacific, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and could be the first item returned to Japan.
NOAA is working with the U.S. State Department, the Japanese Embassy, and the Japanese consulate in Seattle to confirm the details of the school connection and to set up a process to return any future items. The soccer ball may be the first identifiable item that could be returned. Unfortunately, the volleyball doesn’t have enough information on it for the Japanese consulate to continue investigating a possible owner, although the technician’s wife is continuing the search on her own.