A note on the G-land tsunami of June 3, 1994

You know you’re getting old when an event like the tsunami that swept through G-land surf camp, which seems like it only happened just last week (the Aceh tsunami happening just the other day, and the Japanese one only yesterday)—you know you’re getting old when you realize that it happened 18 years ago. The groms at the World Junior Championships at currently being held in Bali weren’t even born yet.

From Wikipedia:

Java is situated in a tectonic subduction zone, where the Indo-Australian Plate is moving northward, sliding under the Eurasian Plate at a rate of 67 mm/yr. Occasionally, however, the tectonic plate suddenly slips a much greater distance, resulting in an earthquake. In 1994, a major earthquake, registering 7.2 on the Richter Scale, occurred in the Java Trench, 205 km SW of G-Land. The quake triggered a tsunami, which swept through the surf camp about 40 minutes later. The runup at G-Land was estimated to have been as high as 5.6 meters. No lives were lost at G-Land. However, 223 people perished further west, where the villages of Rajekwesi, Pancer and Lampon were almost completely levelled by the tsunami.

Surfer John Philbin was at G-Land on the night of the tsunami. He described hearing the surf and thinking it must be big. “But when the roar grew louder, I sat up inside my mosquito net, and just as I did, a churning wall of water blew through my hut.” Richie Lovett described the experience as “being hit by a train at full speed”. Richard Marsh initially thought a tiger was attacking them, but then realized it was a wave. Marsh and Lovett were swept hundreds of feet into the jungle by the wave. “I was completely panicking. It was a matter of surviving, just grabbing onto things to stay above the water, trying to keep all the debris away from my head and, above all, to get a breath.” Marsh said. Lovett had to be returned to Australia for medical attention. “The hut had disappeared and I was entwined in logs and trees and bits of bamboo. When the water started to subside. I was stuck with my legs pinned under a whole lot of logs and rubbish.”

The other surfers visiting G-Land when the tsunami struck were Monty Webber, Gerald Saunders, Rob Bain, Shanne Herring, Simon Law, Kevin Komick and Neal Purchase. Australian surf photographer Peter Boskovic, aka “Bosco” was at G-land during the tsunami.

Not to make light of the tragedy that killed the villagers on Java’s mainland, but it’s kind of too bad that the tsunami didn’t hit during the day, when Bosco could have snapped off a whole bunch of real interesting photographs. Talk about the shouts of “outside!” I wonder if surfers in the lineup would have been able to survive. Perhaps that they were in camp saved their lives.

Some on-line sources reported the tsunami as occurring late in the evening on June 4th, but it actually occurred on the at 1:17 am on Friday, June 3rd (see (here .

The USGS circular search gives the following results for regional quakes larger than magnitude 6:

The first quake listed at 18:17:34 UTC on Oct 2 was 1:17 am Oct 3 in Java. The USGS epicenter is given as slightly different than that reported in the field survey linked above, but this is common in earthquake studies, as different stations will provide slightly different coordinates and magnitudes. The Google Earth ruler function locates the epicenter as 230 km from G-land camp:

But in any case, the earthquake wasn’t felt. This was remarked with some surprise in the professional literature, I think because the epicenter was so close (note the second paragraph, this screen snip is taken from here:


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