Harley Davidson Swept Away by Japan Tsunami Surfaces in Canada

One of the first pieces of debris to surface after Japan's tsunami last year, the motorcycle swam 4,000 miles to safety.

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Riding his ATV across the beach on British Columbia’s isolated Graham Island, Peter Mark noticed a large container bobbing in the waves. Yielding to his curiosity, Mark peeked inside, only to find a Harley Davidson with Japanese license plates, along with some golf clubs and camping gear, Reuters reports. The bike is believed to have floated some 4,000 miles in the Styrofoam-lined storage unit, crossing the Pacific Ocean from Miyagi, a Japanese prefecture hit especially hard by the tsunami.

Using the bike’s license number, authorities were able to identify the owner, Ikuo Yokoyama. The 29-year-old lived through the tsunami but lost his home and three family members. “The first thing that popped into my mind when I was looking at the scene [was] ‘I really wonder what happened to this person. I really hope this person is OK’,” Mark told CBC News. British Columbian officials say they plan to return the rusty — but salvageable — 2004 Night Train to Yokoyama as soon as possible, according to the National Post.

(MORE: A Year After Evacuating, Residents Long to Return to Homes Near Fukushima Plant)

While the Harley is one of the first pieces of debris to wash up on Canadian shores, this story of reclaimed cargo certainly won’t be the last. Over the next two years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 1.5 million tons of debris will find its way to beaches along the North American coast. Some items have already started to surface on U.S. beaches last month, when a beachcomber found a volleyball and a soccer ball floating off of Alaska’s Middleton Island. Thanks to still-visible inscriptions, both balls were able to be returned to their Japanese owners.

In an effort to reunite belongings with their owners, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia recently launched the Tsunami Debris Project, which will photograph lost items that wash ashore and post them online, according to ABC News. “The idea is to not only document, but to showcase them in an exhibit-type of way, and to tell the social and human side of the story with the idea that there might be a few items that come over that have some personal or sentimental value for these people that have lost everything,” Linda Funk, the project’s coordinator, told ABC.

Yokoyama’s Harley homecoming gets even sweeter — the motorcycle company has offered to clean up and restore the bike to a rideable condition.

PHOTOS: Japan One Year Later: Photographs by James Nachtwey