You would normally expect news of an unusual event off the coast of Japan to be about land disappearing, either because of a tsunami or earthquake or both. That’s not what happened on the northern island of Hokkaido on April 24th when residents of Rausu on the island’s east coast saw a huge land mass rise 10 meters (33 feet) out of the water in less than 24 hours. At the time of this writing, the land mass is an estimated 30 meters (66 feet) wide, 500 meters (1640 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) above sea level. Where is it from and what could have caused it?
One of the first witnesses of this mysterious rising land mass was a woman harvesting seaweed along the Rausu shore on April 24th. In the time it took to fill her basket, she said the mass had risen to above her head. Before the area was sealed off, other witnesses reported it to be covered with seaweed and sea urchins. According to Katsuhiro Tanaka, the president of the Rausu Fisheries Cooperative Association, no one saw or heard it rising.
The local residents said they didn’t hear any sounds and there were no tremors.
It’s been only four years since the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami so Rausu residents are naturally worried about the cause of their new addition. Is it an undersea volcanic eruption like the one in November 2013 which created an island off the coast of Nishinoshima that grew so large it eventually joined with the coast? Is it the return of a previously unknown island like Buyan, the land of Russian mythology that could appear and disappear and was believed to the source of all weather?
Geologists flying over the area believe the land mass was lifted out of the water by the weight of a nearby landslide which created a pivot or seesaw effect. That sounds logical … except they can’t say exactly where or when the landslide occurred. Despite that, an official at the central government’s Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau assured the public it won’t happen again.
Really? Until some better information is available, I wouldn’t go seaweed-picking in Rausu anytime soon.