2:47 PM EDT, April 5, 2012
The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed a ship to sink a fishing trawler that was swept away more than a year ago by the tsunami off the coast of Japan and is now adrift near Alaska.
The crew of the Coast Guard's 110-foot CG Cutter Anacapa plans to assess the deserted trawler's condition Thursday morning, said Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
If its assessments are satisfactory, the crew will attempt to sink the vessel, named the Ryou-Un Maru, with the 25-millimeter cannon on board the cutter, Wadlow said.
The rust-stained trawler is part of a giant debris field in the Pacific Ocean that was generated by the devastating wall of water that struck northeastern Japan following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
The enormous wave dragged everything from cars to houses out into the ocean, killing thousands of people.
The drifting trawler is considered a hazard to navigation for vessels in the area, according to authorities. Mariners have received information about the unmanned and unlit boat's presence.
Early Thursday morning, the trawler was about 170 nautical miles southwest of Sitka, Alaska, the Coast Guard said. A Coast Guard plane has dropped a self-locating data marker buoy in order to track the boat.
The trawler was first spotted floating near British Columbia by a Canadian military air patrol, and it has since been determined that it has been adrift without anybody at the helm since the tsunami, Canadian officials said last month.
The Japan Coast Guard identified the owner of the vessel after being contacted by Canadian officials, who were able to provide the identification number on the hull of the ship.
The vessel, which was used for squid fishing, was moored at Hachinohe in the Aomori prefecture when the tsunami hit, according to Japanese authorities.