Natural Hazards

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1–17

Historic records of teletsunami in the Indian Ocean and insights from numerical modelling

Original Paper


Following the catastrophic “Great Sumatra–Andaman” earthquake- tsunami in the Indian Ocean on the 26th December 2004, questions have been asked about the frequency and magnitude of tsunami within the region. We present a summary of the previously published lists of Indian Ocean Tsunami (IOT) and the results of a preliminary search of archival materials held at the India Records Office, at the British Library in London. We demonstrate that in some cases, normal tidal movements and floods associated with tropical cyclones have been erroneously listed as tsunami. We summarise archival material for tsunami that occurred in 1945, 1941, 1881, 1819, 1762 and a little known tsunami in 1843. We present the results of modelling of the 2004, 1861 and 1833 tsunami generated by earthquakes off Sumatra and the 1945 Makran earthquake and tsunami, and examine how these results help to explain some of the historical observations. The highly directional component to tsunami propagation illustrated by the numerical models may explain why we are unable to locate archival records of the 1861 and 1833 tsunami at important locations like Rangoon, Kolkata (formally Calcutta) and Chennai (formally Madras), despite reports that these events created large tsunami that inundated western Sumatra. The numerical models identify other areas (particularly the central and southern Indian Ocean islands) where the 1833 tsunami may have had a large enough effect to produce a historic record. We recommend further archival research, coastal geological investigations of tsunami impacts and detailed modelling of tsunami propagation to better understand the record and effects of tsunami in the Indian Ocean and to estimate their likelihood of occurring in the future.


Tsunami Indian Ocean Historic records Analysis Tsunami modelling 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abercrombie RE, Antolik, MA, Felzer, KR, and Ekström, G (2001) The 1994 Java earthquake: slip over a subducting seamount. J Geophys Res 106:6595–6607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ambraseys NN, Melville CP (1982) A history of Persian earthquakes. Cambridge University Press, pp 219Google Scholar
  3. Baird-Smith R (1843) Memoir on Indian earthquakes, Pt. II. Jou Asiatic Soc Bengal 144:1029–1057Google Scholar
  4. Baird-Smith R (1845) Memoir on Indian earthquakes, Pt. III. Jou Asiatic Soc Bengal 156:964–983Google Scholar
  5. Bilham R (1998) Slip parameters for the Rann of Kachchh, India, 16 June 1819 earthquake quantified from contemporary accounts, in Stewart, I.S. and Vita-Finzi, C. (Eds), Coastal Tectonics, Geol. Soc. London, 146, 295–318Google Scholar
  6. Bilham R (1994) The 1737 Calcutta earthquake and cyclone evaluated. Bull Seism Soc Am 84(5):1650–1657Google Scholar
  7. Bird P, Kagan YY (2004) Plate-tectonic analysis of shallow seismicity: apparent boundary width, beta, corner magnitude, coupled lithosphere thickness, and coupling in seven tectonic settings. Bull Seism Soc Am 94:2380–2399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanford HF (1883) Catalogue of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. J Asia Soc Beng XLVI:328–338Google Scholar
  9. Borrero JC (2005) Field data and satellite imagery of tsunami effects in Banda Aceh. Science 308:1596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Byrne DE, Sykes LR, Davis DM (1992) Great thrust earthquakes and aseismic slip along the plate boundary of the Makran subduction zone. J Geophys Res 97:449–478Google Scholar
  11. Chhibber HL (1934) The geology of Burma. The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd., pp 538Google Scholar
  12. Choi BH, Pelinovsky E, Kim KO, Lee JS (2003) Simulation of the trans-oceanic tsunami propagation due to the 1883 Krakatau volcanic eruption. Nat Hazards Ear Sys Sci 3:321–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cummins P, Burbidge D (2004) Small threat, but warning sounded for tsunami research, AusGeo News, 75, pp 4–7,;
  14. Dominey-Howes D (2002) Documentary and geological records of tsunamis in the Aegean Sea region of Greece and their potential value to risk assessment and disaster management. Nat Hazards 25:195–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dominey-Howes D, Keating B (2005) Tsunami risk in the Asia-Pacific region. In: Britton NR (ed), Catastrophe Insurance—Challenges for Insurers in the Asia-Pacific Region. Proceedings of a Conference sponsored by Aon Re Australia Limited, pp 45–63Google Scholar
  16. Estridge HW (1883) The recent phenomena. Extract from The Merchantile Record and Commercial Gazette, 5th October, 188, item No. XLIV (see File 2.14 vol. XVII, Seychelles National Archives)Google Scholar
  17. Fine IV, Rabinovich AB, Thomson RE (2005) The dual source region for the 2004 Sumatra tsunami. Geophys Res Lett 32 L 16602, doi:10.1029/2005GL023521Google Scholar
  18. Geist E, Titov V, Synolakis C (2006) Tsunami: wave of change. Scientific American, January 2006, 56–63Google Scholar
  19. Gutenberg and Richter (1954) Seismicity of the earth. Princeton University Press, 310 ppGoogle Scholar
  20. Hirst W (1763) An account of the earthquake in the East Indies, of two eclipses of the Sun and Mood, observed at Calcutta: in a letter to the Reverend Thomas Birch. Phil Trans Royal Soc Lond 53:256–262Google Scholar
  21. Jackson LE, Barrie JV, Forbes DL, Shaw J, Manson GK, Schmidt M (2005) Effects of the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in the Republic of the Seychelles, GSC open file report 4935, pp 15Google Scholar
  22. Jhingran AG (1952) A note on the earthquake in the Andaman Islands (26th June 1941). Rec Geol Surv India 82(2):300–307Google Scholar
  23. Kowalik Z, Knight W, Logan T, Whitmore P (2005) Numerical modeling of the global tsunami: Indonesian tsunami of 26 December 2004. Sci Tsunami Hazards 23(1):40–56Google Scholar
  24. Lay T, Kanamori H, Ammon C, Nettles M, Ward S, Aster R, Beck S, Bilek S, Brudzinski M, Butler R, DeShon H, Ekstrom G, Satake K, Sipkin S (2005) The Great Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake of 26 December 2004. Science 308:1127–1133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lisitzin E (1974) Sea-level changes. Elsevier Oceanography Series 8. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Oxford, 286 ppGoogle Scholar
  26. Logan (1887) Malabar. Asian Educ Ser Reprint 1:98–105Google Scholar
  27. Madras Marine Proceedings (1882) Index to the proceedings of the Madras Government of Fort Saint George, in the Marine Department, for the year 1881 (IOR: P/1780). The Government PressGoogle Scholar
  28. McCloskey J, Nalbant SS, Steacy S (2005) Earthquake risk from co-seismic stress, Nature, 434, 17 March 2005, 291Google Scholar
  29. Murty T, Bapat A (1999) Tsunamis on the coastlines of India. Sci Tsunami Hazards 17(3):167–172Google Scholar
  30. Murty T, Rafiq M (1991) A tentative list of tsunamis in the marginal seas of the north Indian Ocean. Nat Hazards 4:81–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nandy DR (1994) Earthquake hazard potential of central and south Bengal Basin. Indian J Ear Sci 21(2):59–68Google Scholar
  32. Natawidjaja DH, Sieh K, Chlieh M, Galetzka J, Surwargadi BW, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Avouac J-P, Ward SN (2006) Source parameters of the great Sumartran megatthrust earthquakes of 1797 and 1833 inferred from coral micoatolls. J Geophys Res 111:B06403 doi:10.1029/2055JB004025Google Scholar
  33. Newcomb KR, McCann WR (1987) Seismic history and seismotectonics of the Sunda Arc. J Geophys Res 92(B1):421–439Google Scholar
  34. Oldham RD (1926) The Cutch (Kachh) earthquake of 16th June 1819 with a revision of the Great Earthquake of 12th June 1897. Memo Geol Surv India 46(2):71–145Google Scholar
  35. Oldham T (1869) A catalogue of Indian earthquakes from the earliest time to the end of A.D. 1869. Memo Geol Surv India 19(3):163–215Google Scholar
  36. Oldham (1884) Note on the earthquake of 31st December 1881. Memo Geol Surv India XIX:47–53Google Scholar
  37. Ortiz M, Bilham R (2003) Source area and rupture parameters of the 31 December 1881 Mw = 7.9 Car Nicobar earthquake estimated from tsunamis recorded in the Bay of Bengal. J Geophys Res 108, doi:10.1029/2002JB001941Google Scholar
  38. Pacheco JF, Sykes LR, Scholz CH (1993) Nature of seismic coupling along simple plate boundaries of the subduction type. J Geophys Res 98:14133–14159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Page WD, Alt JN, Cluff LS, Plafker G (1979) Evidence for the recurrence of large-magnitude earthquakes along the Makran coast of Iran and Pakistan. Tectonophysics 52:533–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pararas-Carayannis G (1977) Indonesian earthquake and tsunami of August 19, 1977, Intern. Tsunami Information Center Report, Abstracted article in Tsunami Newsletter, Vol. X, No. 3Google Scholar
  41. Pendse CG (1946) The Mekran earthquake of the 28th November 1945. India Meteorol Depart Sci Notes 10(125):141–145Google Scholar
  42. Shennan I, Long A, Rutherford M, Green F, Innes J, Lloyd J, Zong Y, Walker K (1996) Tidal marsh stratigraphy, sea-level change and large earthquakes. A 5000 year record in Washington, USA. Quaternary Sci Rev 15:1023–1059CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shibayama T, Okayasu A, Sasaki J, Suzuki T, Matsumaru RM, Zouhrawaty A (2005) Tsunami Disaster Survey in Aceh, Indonesia due to Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004. Annu J Coastal Eng JSCE 52(2):1371–1375 (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  44. Simkin T, Fiske R (1983) Krakatau 1883: The volcanic eruption and its effects. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 464 ppGoogle Scholar
  45. Titov VV, Gonzalez FI (1997) Implementation and testing of the Method of Splitting Tsunami (MOST) model, NOAA Technical Memorandum ERL PMEL-112Google Scholar
  46. Titov VV, Rabinovich AB, Mofjeld HO, Thomson RE, Gonzalez FI (2005) The global reach of the 26 December 2004 Sumatra tsunami. Science 309:2045–2047CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Warton and Evans (1888) On the seismic sea waves caused by the eruption at Krakatoa, August 26th and 27th, 1883. In: Part III of The Eruption of Krakatoa and Subsequent Phenomena, G.L. Symonds (ed), Rept. of the Krakatoa Comm. of the Roy Soc, pp 89–151Google Scholar
  48. Wichmann A (1918a) Die erdbeben des Indischen Archipels bis zum Jahre 1857, in Afdeling Natuurkunde Nederlandse Verhandlingen, 193 pp. Kon. Akademie van Wetenschappen, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  49. Wichmann A (1918b) Die erdbeben des Indischen Archipels von 1858–1877, in Afdeling Natuurkunde Nederlandse Verhandlingen, 209 pp. Kon. Akademie van Wetenschappen, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  50. Zachariasen J, Sieh K, Taylor F, Edwards R, Hantoro W (1999) Submergence and uplift associated with the giant 1833 Sumatran subduction earthquake: evidence from coral microatolls. J␣Geophys Res 104:895–919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zachariasen J, Sieh K, Taylor FW, Hantoro WS (2000) Modern vertical deformation above the Sumatran subduction zone: paleogeodetic insights from coral microatolls. Bull Seismol Soc Am 90(4):897–913CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale Dominey-Howes
    • 1
  • Phil Cummins
    • 2
  • David Burbidge
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physical GeographyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Geoscience AustraliaCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations