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20.01.05 - Dispatch 4 from Surfzone Relief Ship off Simeulue, Sumatra SUMATRA SURFZONE RELIEF OPERATION
Following is latest dispatch from the Mikumba, off northern Simeulue Island, Aceh, Sumatra, via Bill Sharp, Acting Director of SSRO.
One more big day for the SSRO crew.
We began early by visiting yet another village located on the banks of a river deep within Alafan Bay on the remote northern coast of Simeulue Island. Many villages throughout this region are constructed next to the fresh waters flowing from the hills, and while they are quite near the coast they are often not actually visible from ships offshore. This has lead to many severely-damaged villages being overlooked in early inspections all over the region. These watersheds are only scarcely above sea level and the tsunami's hydraulic forces had no difficulty surging kilometers inland up rivers and streams wreaking havoc along the way.
And just like in all the villages visited to date we saw more people whose possessions had all been swept away, leaving them without means to obtain food, or cook it if they did. And a population stricken with all manner of post-disaster medical afflictions. In our ever-increasing efficiency we determined their needs and did what we could to satisfy them throughout the morning.
Today we were rejoined by the Asia, which we had not seen since parting ways in Gunung Sitoli a number of days back. After dropping helicopter fuel in Sibolga for Caltech geologist Kerry Sieh, operator Chris Scurrah boldly decided to resupply there and -- with funding from Surf Aid -- loaded up with 50 tons of staple supplies like water, rice and potatoes and made way for this corner of the world. This arrival was rather timely as our original cargo is nearly depleted.
Today also saw the first local response in the form of a TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) gunboat and another vessel carrying the equivalent of a Civil Defense group. We greeted them and were relieved that there were no political or bureaucratic hurdles -- they seemed truly stoked we had been the first responders to the region. It was smiles and handshakes all around.
Later in the day the Mikumba ventured outside of the bay to the west and dropped anchor off a small village. It was here that we came face to face with an unbelievable sight -- the land was clearly raised a good four feet by the earthquake. The beach upon which the village has built an eon ago is now far inland, with a vast stretch of dry coral reef now separating it from the ocean water. On Christmas Day, it would have been quite simple to land a small boat upon the sandy shore. Now, the formerly routine act of moving from land to sea is fraught with peril and one must wonder how this village can possibly remain viable.
For the many surfers who have been wondering if the big geologic event might have affected the shape of breaking waves in this region, you now have your answer.
With some difficulty we made it to shore and went to work once again distributing supplies and administering medical aid. By the end of the day, we knew that the first phase of this operation was nearing its end. The last bit of what was originally 37 tons of food, water, shelter and other survival materials was given out this afternoon. With the local response teams now on scene and more supply boats on the way, we felt we could turn over operations in this spot to others and move on.
After consulting with Chris on the Asia, a plan was agreed upon to jointly complete a full circumnavigation of the island and try to improve the intelligence available about some of the more remote spots of Simeulue. The Mikumba will head north to the top of the island and move clockwise around toward Sinabong. Meanwhile, the Asia will head out the west and then continue around in the island counterclockwise past the wild west coast where there are believed to be quite a few areas where outside aid has still not reached. We will then all rendezvous in Sinabong in a day or so, compare notes and develop the ongoing action plan.
The spirit of the SSRO team remains high, and the will to keep going is strong.
As of now we are sailing north and a storm can be seen brewing in our path. This is not the first rough patch we have encountered, nor will it be our last. We will weather this storm as well.
The bay referred to as Alafan is also known as Alaman, Alavan or Alunam depending on the chart.
For additional details on the amazing efforts of the Asia and Chris "Scuzz" Scurrah and Christina Fowler, see
It includes some additional details via Kerry Sieh:
"Scuzz had an opportunity to speak to Professor Kerry, and he shared more of his findings. His research shows that the island of Simeulue rose 2-3 feet in the northern part of the island, and dropped maybe 1 foot in the south. In Nias, he calculated that the tsunami wave that hit Sirombu was 4.2 meters high. In Simeulue (which is north of Nias), the wave as estimated at approximately 6.2 meters high. Most villagers in Simeulue reported that the biggest wave hit around 9am –10am; while reports are that an odd wave hit Nias around 3-4 pm. Kerry thinks this is because the wave reflected off Sri Lanka, and bounced back onto the islands. This is only theory at this point, but if accurate it’s just an amazing example of the power of this quake and subsequent tsunami."
Also, please see Timmy Turner and Dustin Humphrey's words and photos account of the last few weeks, just sent by satellite internet uplink from the beaches of Simeulue:,19929,1018737,00.html <,19929,1018737,00.html>