Startling details about tsunami

Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: A 27-member team of scientists that explored the seabed site of last year's tsunami has come out with amazing and chillingdetails of the geological catastrophe that claimed thousands of lives.

The entire fault line in the Indian Ocean runs for 1,600 miles and only half of it ruptured last year.

The team led by noted oceanographer Kate Moran of the University of Rhode Island, U.S., believes that the other half could break any time.

The Discovery Channel that funded the 17-day expedition recently is to air a special programme — Unstoppable Wave — on Christmas Day and also on December 26, the first anniversary of the catastrophe.

The scientists belonged to several disciplines, including seismology, geophysics and marine biology. They were backed by seabed visualisation experts and tsunami modellers. Among them was an Indian marine biologist, Baban Ingole of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa.

Dr. Ingole described the expedition and the research method at a press conference here on Wednesday. The researchers lowered ROV — remote operated vehicle, suspended by an umbilical cable from their ship, The Performer. The ROV transmitted video images and other data to the mother ship where the scientists studied and analysed them.

The scientists have pieced together the sequence of the events of December 26, 2004. At 7.58 a.m., 20 miles below the ocean surface, the geological forces reached the breaking point. The fault started to rupture. The western side of the undersea mountain range on the edge of the plate was thrusted up by as much as 40 feet. At twice the speed of a bullet, the plates unzipped over a distance of more than 750 miles lifting the seabed and the entire ocean above. Only 10 feet high but a hundred miles from front to back, the tsunami wave contained 200 trillion tonnes of water. It travelled at over 500 miles an hour.

As it neared coasts and entered shallow water, the wave slowed but its back, a hundred miles behind was still travelling fast. The rear end caught up, compressing the wave into a vertical wall of water upto 120 feet high.

Recommended for you