Map showing the cruise track and sampling stations during the June 2011 cruise to study radiation in the pacific. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake 80 miles off the northeast coast of Japan triggered a series of tsunamis that struck nearby shorelines with only a few minutes’ warning. The disaster left dozens of villages along nearly 200 miles of coast heavily damaged or completely destroyed.
The waves, some of which measured more than 40 feet, also struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 150 miles north of Tokyo, disabling the plant’s emergency systems and, over the following weeks, resulted in the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history. Because of the plant’s location, much of this contamination washed into the Pacific. Additional airborne radioactive material likely fell onto the sea surface, where it too mixed into the water.
The need to understand the amount, type, and fate of radioactive materials released prompted a group of scientists from the U.S., Japan, and Europe to organize the first multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research cruise in the northwestern Pacific since the events of March and April. A group of 17 researchers and technicians spent two weeks aboard the University of Hawaii research vessel R/V Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa examining many of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the ocean that either determine the fate of radioactivity in the water or that are potentially affected by radiation in the marine environment.
This site will chronicle and archive their work, offers more information about the methods and technology they will employ, and about radiation in the ocean. (Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)