A few weeks ago I stumbled across an article about a 'ghost ship' that had spent the last year making it's own way from Japan to the coast of British Columbia after it had been dislodged from it's mooring by the tsunami. From the telegraph:

But twelve months after the tragedy the creaking vessel has emerged 5,000 miles away in the seas off British Columbia, an eerie reminder of the tragedy which claimed 19,000 lives.

FFV Ryou-un Maru
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

It formed part of the huge amount of debris that was created by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. From a BBC article:

Japanese estimates suggested perhaps 20 million tonnes of debris were generated by the earthquake and the incoming rush of water on 11 March last year.

Most would have stayed on land, and a fair proportion pulled out to sea would have sunk rapidly. But it is possible a million tonnes is still floating on the ocean.

I've just watched the video of James Bridle's talk from Lift, We found love in a coded space, which reminded me about the shipadrift project, and reminded me in turn about the 'ghost ship' and how I'd thought about these things together when I first heard of the rusty little boat. Shipadrift makes use of weather sensors data to move the stationary boat virtually around the world, as if it could float off and follow the wind directions, looking around itself to see whether there is data about where it finds itself, geotagged photos, or wikipedia articles etc.

The Ryou-Un Maru was a real world example of just this. An untethered boat going where nature tells it to go. To my knowledge it wasn't tweeting. Unfortunately (from the Guardian)

Its fate had been sealed after local officials decided to sink it rather than allow it to run aground or continue to float in busy shipping lanes between North America and Asia

and so

The 164ft (50 metre) ghost ship survived an initial barrage of 25mm shells that left it ablaze but still afloat. After dousing the flames, coastguard vessels opened fire again with more powerful explosives, which sent it more than 1,000ft to the bottom of the sea about 180 miles off the coast of Alaska.

Japanese vessel sinks in Gulf of AK
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

It survived over a year at sea, an initial attempt to destroy it, it caught fire, the fire was extinguished before finally being sunk. A plucky little 'ghost ship'! (I hope ShipAdrift has a nicer ending)