Kayakers exploring remote beaches of Washington state for debris from last year's Japan tsunami say they believe they have found part of a house, along with pieces of a washing machine, laundry hamper and child's toilet bowl.
Three kayakers with the Ikkatsu Project wrote in a report this week that they found the remnants June 12 near the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, about 120 miles (193 kilometres) west of Seattle.
They discovered a lumber pile mixed in with driftwood and seaweed. Some of the lumber was stamped with a serial number they traced to a mill in Osaka - the Diawa Pallet Housou Co., the kayakers wrote.
Some of pieces were nailed together, kayaker Ken Campbell said Tuesday.
It might be the first case of a Japanese home floating 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometres) across the Pacific Ocean following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
The kayakers also found household items including a glass bottle of cherry-flavoured cough syrup and a red container of kerosene with Japanese writing. Kerosene is widely used to heat homes in Japan.
It was exciting to find what appeared to be the remnants of a home, Campbell said.
But he added: "It was sobering, especially when you're smelling somebody else's cough syrup. Somebody lived here, and it doesn't look like a house any more. I was not prepared to find something like that."
Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who is on the expedition's advisory board, said it is too soon to confirm whether the debris was from a Japanese home.
"It's like an archaeological dig," he said Tuesday. "It's a bunch of things that could be construed as a house."
A 66-foot (20-meter) dock ripped loose by the tsunami landed on an Oregon beach this month, and officials confirmed Tuesday that a 20-foot (6-meter) boat that washed ashore in southwest Washington last week came from Japan.
The arrival of tsunami debris has worried officials on the West Coast and in Alaska. They say it will be expensive to clean and could carry invasive species - a serious threat to the fishing industry. On Monday, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire called for federal help dealing with the debris.
The kayakers - Campbell, Steve Weileman and Jason Goldstein - named their expedition the Ikkatsu Project after a Japanese word for "unity," and they are dividing the trip into three segments, the last of which will be completed in August.
The team's work will help establish a baseline for measuring how much more tsunami debris arrives this fall and winter, Ebbesmeyer said.
The kayakers said they didn't have the resources to search through the entire lumber and debris pile, and Campbell said they didn't find anything with a name or address- though in retrospect, they could have looked harder.
"It was my first time finding a house, what can I say," Campbell said. "Next time, I'll be much more thorough."