When the Scribers were scuba divers, we traveled to Indonesia three times. On the first trip we were ship-wrecked and housed by the Indonesian navy on the atoll of Mapia; enough about that. Our second trip started in the city of Denpasar on the Island of Bali, then to Makassar and then to Sorong on the Northwest coast of West Papua, there to dive the islands of Rajah Ampat (“four kings”). We then sailed southward across the Banda Sea ending up on the island of Flores and then back to Bali(1100 miles at sea). Our third trip, also starting in Denpasar and Makassar, we began our voyage in Ternate on the island of Halmahera and on to Rajah Ampat again and returning via Sorong/Denpasar. Arguably we experienced the most biodiverse underwater environment in the world.
But, as usual, I don my academic garb and digress. (But it did let me show you some cool maps.)
Down in the lower left of the next map, you will see two largish islands, Sumatra on the north and Java on the south. Between lies the Sunda Strait and in it the volcanic island Krakatoa (aka Krakatau). That is the site of the volcanic eruptions subject of the old film Krakatoa, East of Java and more recently thought to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Indonesians on Java due to a monstrous unpredicted tsunami, more specifically in the district of Pandeglang.
That should give you a feel for the geography of the area when the morning news reports on this tragedy. I take exception to some of the reporting. Indonesia, you now see, is an enormous country spanning thousands of miles. The tsunami doesn’t just hit “Indonesia”. You need to ask where.
We also need to know why. The [CNN story], among other reporting resources, informs us that the early warning detectors available to Indonesia were tectonic activity. The latest tsunami was triggered by a volcanic-induced underwater rock slide.
According to a conglomeration of agencies, the disaster was the product of multiple triggers: a volcanic eruption causing a 64-hectare (158-acre) chunk of Anak Krakatau to slide off the island volcano and into the ocean during a full moon at high tide.
Many witnesses said Saturday’s tsunami struck with no warning, and President Joko Widodo, who was scheduled to visit the disaster zone Monday, has ordered the country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geological Agency to purchase detectors to provide early warnings to Indonesians.
The Indonesia Ministry of Maritime Affairs’ censors “did not sound early warning because they are for tectonic activity not volcanic activity,” spokesman Rahmat Djamaluddin said.
Anak Krakatau is known for its 1883 eruption – one of the deadliest in recorded history – that killed more than 36,000 people.
So the most recent Indonesian tsunamis could have been far worse, and in the future are likely to become so without proper detection - at the very least.