Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why didn't the tsunami hit us?

Aside from the sounding of sirens and an almost token "evacuation" of people to the upper floors of buildings, we saw absolutely no effect from the Tsunami emanating from Japan. This wasn't unexpected, atolls such as ours aren't usually at high risk for them.

For a tsunami to really build up you want two things; a slow, even rise up from the sea floor, (like a continental shelf) and a long, straight (or even slightly U-shaped) coastline to focus the wave. We don't have any of that.

Once you get past our little coral reef, the ocean floor drops off in an almost purely vertical wall, all the way to the 6,000 foot deep sea bed. Our coastline is also jagged and uneven, which would help break up any sort of wave that was able to build up. And while we're large by atoll standards, we're very small by oceanic standards, so small that any wave just goes around us without noticing.

That's not to say we haven't seen some slightly unusual side effects from this ordeal.

We're serviced by Continental Airlines once a day; On even days the airplane goes from Honolulu > Majuro > Kwajalein > Pohnpei > Guam, and on odd days it makes the reverse trip. On Friday, the airplane was already delayed for a couple of hours due to mechanical issues, but then just as it landed here on Kwaj, they made the decision that it was going to skip Majuro due to concerns of the possibility of a tidal wave. So the airplane went directly to Honolulu, and everyone who was coming from the east and desined for Majuro was kicked off the plane here at Kwaj.

We're not quite sure what to do with them at this point. Many of them are foreign nationals and as this is a military base, they are very much not allowed to roam around. We've been putting them up in one of the multi-purpose buildings, but the next flight isn't until Tuesday. There's talk of putting them up at Ebeye, but the cots in a big room that they've got them in here is probably nicer then any accommodations on Ebeye.

At this point, it's mostly the airline's call. They could send them back to Guam today, where at least they can be put into proper hotels and have some communication with the outside world. No one's really sure what will happen, but it sure is a weird side-effect of an earthquake 4,000 miles away.

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