In April of 2013, a mysterious boat washed ashore in Crescent City. Having drifted upside down, the inside of the boat was engulfed in barnacles. Experts were called to examine the dingy and determined it was tsunami debris. They also discovered some Japanese characters after removing some of the barnacles. The characters read Takata High School. A quick search showed the high school was located in Rikuzentakata, a town that was all but leveled by a tsunami two years prior.
For being so far apart, Rikuzentakata and Crescent City have a lot in common. Coastal communities along the Pacific, they have vibrant fishing industries and thousands of towering trees. Rikuzentakata was known for a mile of shoreline thick with more than 70,000 pine trees. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011 created a tsunami that destroyed those trees, along with the entire community. These two Pacific communities now share a tsunami disaster within their histories.
In 1964, it was a 9.2-magnitude earthquake from Alaska that sent a 21-foot wave crashing over Crescent City’s downtown. More than 280 buildings and homes were destroyed and 11 lives were lost. Most of the downtown area had to be rebuilt after the tsunami, earning Crescent City the nickname Comeback Town, USA. Take the self-guided tsunami tour in Crescent City that tells the full story.
The Rikuzentakata tsunami took the lives of nearly 2,000 people, including 22 Takata High School students. Somehow, this little boat survived tragedy to float the Pacific for years before finding its way to America. Students at Del Norte County High School were drawn to help. They began restoring the boat. They found the boat had a name, Kamome, which means seagull in Japanese. Others made national and international phone calls to see if they could return the boat to the students of Takata High School.
Kamome was part of the high school’s maritime science class, giving Takata students a hands-on appreciation for the ocean. The boat had been just one of the many losses the community had to rebuild. But in such a difficult time, Takata High School received a call that students across the ocean wanted to help. Crescent City was inspired not only by Kamome’s travels, but the strength of Rikuzentakata. Del Norte County students and staff, as well as Crescent City officials, worked tirelessly to establish how to return the boat. The two communities collaborated, along with U.S. and Japanese embassies, to return Kamome.