Japanese tsunami victim who lost Harley to get it back after bike found on B.C. beach

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Car and motorcycle collectors love to talk about "barn finds," valuable models covered in dust and debris that are discovered in unlikely places.

So what to call Peter Mark's amazing discovery? A beach find?

Mark, who lives on Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) off the northern B.C. coast, was doing some beach-combing on Graham Island with a friend when they spotted a trailer-like container, CBC News reported.

Inside was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a Japanese licence plate.

The bike, corroded but intact, had apparently survived almost 14 months in the water after being swept out to sea by the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011.

It's the latest piece of debris to wash up on North American shores, the advance guard for thousands of tonnes of material that could reach Canadian and U.S. west coastlines.

People have reported picking up small items and the Guardian reported that scientists believe lighter objects reached North America as early as last November.

A vast blob of tsunami debris thousands of kilometres across is floating between Midway Atoll and the northern Hawaiian islands.

Most of it will break up and sink before it washes ashore, or become trapped in what's known as the Pacific garbage patch, the Guardian said.

A month ago, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter used gunfire to sink a large fishing boat that had drifted into the Gulf of Alaska and was not worth salvaging.

Most of the tsunami flotsam is expected to hit the coast in 2013-14.

Some estimates put the size of the debris mass at 1.5 million tonnes, according to the Daily Mail.

A soccer ball that washed up on an Alaska beach has been traced to 16-year-old boy. David Baxter, who found the ball, as well as a volleyball, plans to travel to Japan to return it, the Daily Mail reported.

The British Columbia Maritime Museum has set up a project on Facebook that allows people to post photos of debris they find on local beaches.

"Moderators at the museum will attempt to determine the origin of debris, assess any potential value and place photos of the objects on the website," the museum said in a news release.

"In some cases where an object has been collected from the beach it may be able to be returned to its owner through the Japanese Consulate."

Even if it's not returnable, the online curated collection of pictures will make an interesting exhibit to help document the disaster, the museum said.

That won't be a problem with the rusty motorbike.

The owner of the Harley-Davidson was tracked down through the vehicle identification number on the bike.

Ikuo Yokoyama, 29, of Miyagi Prefecture, lost three members of his family when the tsunami destroyed his village and he still lives in temporary housing, CBC reported.

He'd been storing the Harley in the cargo box of a cube van that had been turned into a storage shed at his family's home.

The Harley-Davidson company is making arrangements to try to restore the motorbike and return it to Yokoyama.