U.S. Coast Guard photo.
A U.S. Coast Guard ship sank a 164-foot phantom Japanese fishing vessel in the Gulf of Alaska with cannon fire, eliminating what had become a potential risk to shipping and the coastline, reports the Associated Press.
The ship dislodged during last year’s devastating tsunami in Japan and had since made its way to around 180 miles off the southeast Alaska coast. After traveling across the Pacific, the Ryou-Un Maru quickly burst into flames when it was hit with high-explosive ammunition and disappeared into waters that are more than 6,000 feet deep within four hours, notes the AP.
In a last-minute twist Thursday, a 62-foot Canadian vessel claimed salvage rights over the ship. Plans to sink the ship were briefly halted but the Canadian vessel was ultimately unable to tow it.
The rust-coated ship had been slowly drifting toward the Alaskan coast, and eerie aerial photos of it surfaced recently as it approached North America. The ship was traced to Hokkaido, Japan, where its 60-year-old owner said he didn’t want it back. Because of the extraordinary circumstances of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the Japanese government absolved him of any responsibility, ABC News noted late last month.
The New York Times has reported that computer models projected debris from the tsunami disaster would first start to appear on North American coasts early next year, but amateur treasure hunters say it’s already happening. "That wave wiped out whole towns, I’m thinking just about anything could show up here," a Washington man told the paper. "I’ve heard people talking about floating safes full of Japanese money."