Story: Tsunamis

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In May 1960 a tsunami reached New Zealand’s coast. At the time Lionel Hussey, a Leading Radio Electrical Mechanic (LREM) in the Royal New Zealand Navy, was attending a course at Devonport.

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Contributed by Lionel Hussey.

Our classroom was at HMNZS Philomel at Devonport, Auckland. The room was built on stilts out over the water. It was the morning after the Chilean earthquake. I was sitting beside the window on the seaward side and could see gannets diving into the sea to catch fish within 100–200 metres of where I was sitting. This was quite a usual event. On this morning the tide went out very quickly and within a few minutes there were a few inches of water covering the bottom of the area near our classroom. But the gannets kept on diving. Instead of the expected metre or so of water, there was practically nothing and so they were getting stuck in the mud with their long beaks and their bodies sticking up above in mid-air for a few seconds or so. This activity of course broke up our instruction period with howls of laughter.

At the time we did not suspect that we were in any danger of the tide coming back much higher than expected and possibly flooding us out or even lifting the room off its piles. Luckily this did not happen but we didn't realise the danger until the news reports started coming in later in the day.

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How to cite this page:

Eileen McSaveney, 'Tsunamis - Experiences of tsunamis', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 June 2024)

Story by Eileen McSaveney, published 12 Jun 2006, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2017