Surviving the Tsunami
29 September 2009
Tomas and I woke up this morning to tsunami warnings on the radio. An 8.3 earthquake struck off the coast of American Samoa, and a tsunami warning was put out for most of the western south pacific. We listened to the radio as locals were talking it down, even joking, saying that it is just protocol and that nothing ever materializes. Ten minutes after the Tsunami was predicted to arrive, the lagoon at Hunga island were we are anchored began to drain out. A huge V formed in the pass as the water rushed out, exposing all the coral and rocks. The tide went down about 3-4m (10 plus ft) in about 30 seconds and then a huge wave crashed through the pass, refilling the lagoon and creating standing waves in the pass. This repeated itself about 5 times, each with decreasing strength. We were in a well protected area and fared fine, but in other areas of Vava'u boats that we know were not so lucky. Boats were slammed against the reef as the tide dropped up to 15ft/5m in some areas. Some boats tried to get there anchors up to move away from shore and couldn't and had to cut their anchor chains. A few boats were even thrown up onto the beach! In Western Samoa there have been fatalities and there are reports of whole villages being washed away.
I went spearfishing for 4 hours yesterday (sharks kept stealing my fish, so it took awhile to get any decent catch into the boat), and planned to go out early this morning at high tide to do the same. Luckily, I have been reading High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I laid in bed and read. I would have been completely screwed if I was out in the pass, and would probably would not be writing this blog. Cheers to lazy morning reads.
The other day on the journey here to Hunga we had a beautiful sail and saw three pods of humpbacks, one came within 10m of the boat. We also almost ran into a huge leatherback turtle, which are the largest marine turtles. The snorkeling here has been great, right outside the pass it drops of to thousands of feet, so you see lots of pelagic fish and large sharks. You also constantly here the whales singing to each other as you swim along. There are deeper groaning songs that last up to 15 minutes that are the male humpbacks courting songs. Then there are shorter groans and grunts, which are the females, followed by the high pitched squeaks that are the replies of their calves. Today will be spent on the boat, as surges continue to pulse through the pass.