WHITBY’S tsunami survivors have finally returned home to their families with the message “life goes on”.
Mick Naisbitt and fellow Whitby colleague Peter Rees were aboard a research vessel in northern Japan when the devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck on 11 March.
They had been unable to escape and over the next few days lived in constant fear another tsunami would strike the severely damaged boat, but have now returned safely to their families.
Mr Naisbitt said he managed to get back last Wednesday (23 March) just in time for a special occasion: “I was exhausted when I got home but it was great because all the kids were here.
“Then on Thursday we went out for my youngest grandkid Oakley’s second birthday.”
After a month of eating Japanese food, Mr Naisbitt was delighted to return to the comforts of a home-cooked meal.
“I hate rice”, he added, “And I said to my wife ‘I’m sick of eating raw fish!’”
Mr Naisbitt’s wife Yvonne said it was great to have her husband back at last.“We are sort of getting back to normal, but it has been awful,” she said
“The kids were dead upset and our Nicky broke her heart, but we put banners up on Wednesday and we went to the airport to pick him up.”
It was when he finally got onto the plane from Chitose Airport, Sapporo, that Mr Naisbitt was finally able to relax.
He added: “They don’t carry champagne on Korean Air and the red wine they brought I didn’t like, so I was drinking saki and then I fell asleep.
“I was shattered because I hadn’t slept much.
“You weren’t resting when you went to bed, you’d just lie there.
“It was not the nicest of things, it was just the thought of what if another wave came?
“Would the ship stand up to another wave?”
The research vessel Chikyu was in Japan researching the causes of earthquakes and tsunami, but barely survived when itself got caught up in the natural disaster.
The boat was thrown against the side of the jetty, a rear propeller broke off and the anchor chains tangled.
This prevented the boat from escaping to safer waters and could have proved fatal had another tsunami struck.
Mr Naisbitt said: “When they said it was safe enough to come out, the next morning, was basically when we saw all the damage and devastation.
“We sat there for nearly five days.Then we got alongside the jetty and we started to work on the anchor chains and I knew once we sorted that out I would be fine.
Mr Naisbitt had only recently joined the crew of the Chikyu when the disaster struck, but he intends to return to the ship in the near future.
He said: “That was my first trip with this company but I’ll be back out there again in a dry dock.
“We have all our equipment out there to maintain for when we go sailing to Sri Lanka, which will be in May, although I think there is a fair chance that the Japanese government won’t want us to leave.”
Mr Naisbitt’s company operates a rotation system where they spend 28 days on and then 28 days off and the Naisbitts are taking this opportunity to escape on holiday to Spain, which they hope will be slightly more relaxing than Mr Naisbitt’s last foreign excursion, one which they are sure never to forget.
“It’s a funny feeling”, he said, “but then when you come out of it you think, it’s a mess but life goes on.”