Photos, captions and introduction by Duncan Macfarlane
I was walking along the half-made pathway towards the hamlet of Gobik on Sipora Island in the Mentawai. Julian, the captain for our boat charter, by my side while I was shooting photos of young schoolkids walking by. Julian said he used to shoot photos while on the charters but doesn’t anymore. Puzzled, I asked him why not and he looked at me and said, “Tsunami.”
Last week (Wednesday, April 11) an 8.6 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, followed by an 8.2M aftershock. While no large tsunami was produced, the quake sits just outside the bubble of the top 10 largest earthquakes on record. There were power cuts to many regions and chaos as people headed to higher ground throughout SE Asia. Five people died, mainly from heart attacks, but fortunately the three tsunamis that were generated only rose to 2 feet.
The trip on Julian’s boat was with Ry Craike and Dom Wills to document SurfAid’s work in the Mentawai since the 2010 tsunami, which killed more than 500 people in the islands. We surfed throughout the islands, stopping in between spots to visit the villages and take in what local life is really like under the threat of tsunamis and earthquakes, and how SurfAid’s programs have been helping the locals prepare for emergencies and recover.
Ry Craike at Macaronis. That sand in the background used to be covered by thick jungle until the tsunami washed it all away.
This is the new village of Masokut that has been constructed by the local community with safe building guidance from SurfAid. A year earlier this entire landscape was thick jungle, like you see in the background. The village of 63 families is several hundred meters inland and elevated from future tsunami threats.
This was my first time to Macaronis, so I never saw it pre-tsunami. Apparently there was a platform that was built for photographers and filmers to shoot from. The pylons pictured were cemented into the reef and the tsunami washed through and just ripped them out. That was one of the things that really showed me the power of a tsunami.
The kids here are singing the ‘chicken song’ in the school in the new village of Masokut. The walls are made of blue tarp and they cram in here to learn their little hearts out. SurfAid is raising money to build a proper school
One of the main villages of housing being constructed with the help of SurfAid. Many locally built houses are not built well enough to withstand an earthquake. SurfAid staff help supply materials and building techniques to create stable and safe housing for local villagers.
I think we named this wave ‘Predators’. Former SurfAid Mentawai Program Manager, Tom Plummer, who has lived in the Mentawai for 15 years, says he has never seen anyone surf this wave.
This is Dom Wills at ‘Predators’. It was one of those waves you have to kick out before you land yourself on bone-dry reef. I hate those waves; I always make the worst judgement and get hurt. But that’s where Dom thrives and he made this one and kicked out just in time. Wave of the trip for sure.
A rare anomaly when the wind moves at different speeds on two different layers and spills the clouds over to make waves.
Julian (pictured) was our captain on our boat trip. He was the boat hand aboard the Midas when the 2010 tsunami hit. He told us the story of the night when at about 9pm they heard a roaring like a plane. The boat began to rock violently. And soon the boat caught on fire. They abandoned boat and got washed into the jungle. The Midas got washed to shore and burnt down to the hull you see pictured. Julian was alone in the jungle for over an hour still unable to touch the ground from the water; he said there were crocodiles thrashing around disorientated from the tsunami. He finally found several other people and they started swimming out from the shore where they were picked up by another boat, which had come to help.
We stopped at this sneaky cave on a flat day. Everyone swam in and checked it out. Dom Wills, being the nutter that he is, had a crack at scaling the cliff. He was unsuccessful.
A graveyard for those lost in the 2010 tsunami. There were more than 500 killed throughout the Mentawai. However, the figure would have been much higher if SurfAid’s emergency preparedness program had not been in place - only nine people died in communities that had benefitted from the program.
As part of preparing for potential earthquakes and tsunamis, like the one this week, SurfAid is rolling out its emergency preparedness program which includes paths and signs which lead to higher ground and shelter.