Past major tsunamis and the level of tsunami risk on the Aitape coast of Papua New Guinea

Hugh Davies, Oliver B. Simeon, Geoffrey Hope, Fiona Petchey, Jocelyn M. Davies

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This paper reports the results of an investigation into past major tsunamis on the Aitape coast of Papua New Guinea. The investigation was mounted to gather information to help assess the level of ongoing tsunami risk, in the aftermath of a catastrophic tsunami that struck this coast in 1998. We found that local residents have a strong oral tradition of a great tsunami at some time in the past, date unknown. A possible geological record of past major tsunamis was found in a submerged rock face that comprised clay-rich mudstone with three centimetric interbeds of peat, two of which contained coarse detrital sediment of marine origin. The topmost peat contained much marine detrital sediment, some of it very coarse (pebbles to 4 cm), and was dated at around AD 1440-1600. The second peat contained a much smaller proportion of detrital sediment, finer sediment than was in the topmost, and was dated at around AD 1150-1240. The lowermost peat was dated at around AD 980-1050. The two occurrences of coarse detrital sediments are presumed to be a record of past marine incursions into coastal swamps, probably as tsunamis or possibly as storm waves. The more recent, and more energetic, incursion, at around AD 1440-1600, was very likely the great tsunami of legend. In the thousand years recorded in the submerged rock face, there have been, at most, three major tsunamis, at approximate intervals of 300-500 years.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1019-1040
    JournalNatural Hazards
    Volume96
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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