Tonga: Tsunami Debris

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Comments (12)

Ian Stehbens on December 25, 2009

Located 400M from the shore, this block of coralline limestone and another block about 80M from it, appear to be out of place. They do not appear to have weathered in situ, but rather have been dumped here. This evidence of a paleo-tsunami event gives frightening scale to the possibilities of natural calamities.

Traditionally, Polynesian villages are not located at low coastal sites but either some distance inland or on raised land, except in the case of some settlements on the lagoon side of islands.

Such traditions, I believe are rooted in the history of tsunami experience and associated mythology and religious beliefs.

While this block is 15M x 15M x 10M the notion of it having been torn out of the front edge of the fringing reef and deposited 400M inland is mind boggling. However, in water, Archimedes explained that it is not such a great weight as it may seem. And when one stands on the reef platform a gap of 15M x 15M is not very large at all.

The second such rock located nearby has been quarried. Blasting and removal of much of it for road base has left it much reduced in size.

Both rocks have been linked to the mythological story of the demi-god Maui. In his annoyance at being woken by a noisy rooster (moa) one morning, Maui picked up some rocks and threw them at the rooster. Maui was on 'Eua Island, and the rocks landed on Tongatapu. A collection of such rocks is to be found on eastern Tongatapu at Fua'amotu. These two rocks have been linked to that story. These two are much larger and much further from 'Eua.

theolfa on December 27, 2009

Wow!! I thought it a strange photo, Ian, but I'm curious, so I clicked on it & found this fascinating piece of information. Good timing, too, for the tsunami of 5 years ago. The palm trees help us to see how large this piece of debris is. Thank you for showing this. Theolfa

bdeh on December 28, 2009

Very special to have this rock on that place Ian. Thank you for the explanation. Greetings Berend (I don't get alerts)

Ian Stehbens on December 28, 2009

This has provoked quite a lot of thought for me, and even some theory on the patterns of historic settlements and mythology in the Polynesian islands, Berend. (I can't keep up with alerts, Berend - I just have to work systematically through my friends uploads.)


ƤōƝƓ-not going to Vi… on December 29, 2009

This IS a forgotten natural wonder, Ian.

I can't imagine what the Paleo-Tsunami could look like to have been able to carry this gargantuan rock so far and up the hill! I thought it exists in Hollywood movie only.

Golden ☆

Greetings from Thailand

Ian Stehbens on December 29, 2009

Dear B@ngkok,

At this time of the anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and its impact upon Thailand, it is quite sobering to realize the scale of such an event that is possible. I would hope that 2004 was never repeated, however as a physical event it has been exceeded in scale and will be again.

Human vulnerability is very real, and hazard adjustment and risk management important to appreciate and apply, but when all is said and done, human suffering is a reality too. But when others suffer, may there be a love response.

I suspect that Easter Island monoliths are a response to a paleo-tsunami in early Polynesian times....maybe even this particular paleo-tsunami.

Ian (home in Brisbane)

Ian Stehbens on December 31, 2009

Thank you, Peter.

And may 2010 be a fulfilling year for you. I look forward to many more exchanges during the year.


Hazel Coetzee on January 5, 2010

Wow, this is - as you so aptly say - mind-boggling, Ian. We are so small and vulnerable against the great forces of nature and this brings it home very clearly.

Thank you for this very interesting photo. It is extremely humbling.

Warmest wishes, Hazel

Ian Stehbens on January 5, 2010

Dear Theolfa and *Hazel,

I certainly appreciate your WOWs! And thank you for your responses as well. Believe me, it and its mate are big! (Please accept my apology, Theolfa for missing your message from a week ago.)

Those who are survivors of the Boxing Day 2004 are still traumatised, in addition to their great loss. Tsunamis challenge our human attitudes to risk, hazard adjustment,fatalism and our responses to suffering.


Toto Franchi on January 21, 2010

Hi dear Ian, here I am ... a bit late.. but sure :))!!!
I see that not only strange phenomena occur in Patagonia!!! Is incalulable the power of nature when angry!!! The saddest part is that if it happened once, sure it can keep coming back, although this is not the desire of any of us :(!!!

Fantastic photo my friend, as always your comments are very interesting, thanks for sharing!!!

Friendly greetings, Toto

Ian Stehbens on January 22, 2010

Dear Toto,

You are right, dear friend, whether Patagonia, Pacific or Australia the power and scale of nature in the extreme is far greater than we are able to cope with or even to adjust to.

And thanks for your real interest and kind compliments.


SUBLIME on July 31, 2014

It does boggle the mind! Great knowledge in your comment. Thank-you. Tony

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 25, 2009
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    by Ian Stehbens