Tim Walker’s Tsunami

Wednesday’s Chilean earthquake inspired the typical wave of Tsunami alerts; even more typically no one in New Zealand appeared to give a damn.

Fair to say ‘Tsunami Reports’ in recent years have been reminiscent of that silly lad who cried wolf all those years ago; it’s just become expected that knowledge of a major earthquake somewhere around the world will be promptly followed by a Tsunami warning across New Zealand’s shores, but similar to the boy who cried wolf, nobody listens.

That is the nature of Kiwis: when a Tsunami alert is issued in New Zealand nobody pays it much heed, yet if an earthquake in one of those southern countries did happen to cause the ocean to flood New Zealand’s inland and there had been no warning, well, you’d better believe there would be uproar – ‘Why were we not warned?’, ‘Don’t we have people to find out about these things?’, ‘How come no one told us?’, ‘We pay our taxes so things like this don’t happen’, and so forth.

Early one morning a few years back I was taking a stroll down to a Banks Peninsula beach when I was intercepted by a manic Samaritan informing waterfront dwellers to be “on high alert”; apparently an earthquake had struck somewhere around the world and New Zealand’s eastern coastlines were now presenting a “Tsunami risk”.

That was before 7am. A few kilometres back from the beach my family and I climbed a hill allowing us full view of the ocean and kept tabs on progress from there. We weren’t terribly surprised when, several hours later, other than cramps developing in our legs, nothing of interest had happened. What was surprising though was despite this fabled ‘Tsunami Warning’ still technically being in place, the beach had become overrun with Tsunami spectators.

As a people I think New Zealanders tend to take for granted that there are always going to be others to look out for us. The same kind of overly cautious, seemingly pointless warning system is in place most winters with New Zealand’s weather predictions; it seems if there is even the slightest chance of heavy snow falling, forecasters will over-predict the shit out of it to ensure they are not caught out…

I find it laughable to see how frustrated or even indignant some people become with the Metservice in the days following one of these over-predictions, warning the people of heavy snowfalls that never eventuate.

…Of course if the Metservice are ever caught out, as happened some years ago when an unpredicted snowstorm caught the nation by surprise, massacring a large number of farmers’ newborn stock and ultimately upsetting the nation for days, all hell breaks loose and those inane third paragraph inquiries become reality indeed.

This is the nature of people.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Heffy Snow

Photography by Dick Crane-Wolf

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