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Archive for the ‘Pacific Islands’ Category

Tsunami: Volcano vs. Earthquake

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As if earthquakes were not bad enough on their own there’s the tsunamis – giant waves in the ocean – generated by off-shore earthquakes.

In some respects the devastation from a tsunami can beat that of a quake, simply because the latter’s destruction is usually restricted to a few hundred square miles at worst, whereas the tsunami can smash thousands of miles of coastlines, and do so at great distances from the source of the tsunami.

We’ve actually seen two of the worst tsunamis in our lifetime and both in the still-young 21st century. First with the terrible Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, one wave of which is pictured here, and the 2011 Japanese event.

But now there’s a new type to think about – ones caused by underwater volcanic eruptions. Ever since Krakatoa’s famous destruction in 1883 and the subsequent tsunami, people have been aware that volcanoes can cause them, even if nowhere near as common as earthquake-generated ones.

But the Tonga eruption earlier this year has, after considerable analysis, provided yet another method of tsunami generation:

The initial tsunami wave created by the eruption of the underwater Hunga Tonga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga in January 2022 reached 90 meters in height, around nine times taller than that from the highly destructive 2011 Japan tsunami, new research has found.

The article points out that detection of volcanic-tsunamis is “30 years behind” that of earthquake-based events. Fortunately the volcano-based ones are a lot less common. I also found this interesting:

The research team found that the tsunami was unique as the waves were created not only by the water displaced by the volcano’s eruption, but also by huge atmospheric pressure waves, which circled around the globe multiple times. This ‘dual mechanism’ created a two-part tsunami—where initial ocean waves created by the atmospheric pressure waves were followed more than one hour later by a second surge created by the eruption’s water displacement.

Well, there’s a start on a warning system.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 21, 2022 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Pacific Islands, Science, Tonga

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Seems most New Zealanders prefer a head in the sand approach to what it happening in the Solomon Islands with revelations of a not so secret agreement (still to be ratified by the Solomon Islands government) that would allow the stationing of Chinese troops in the Island nation and the construction of a naval base that would allow the Chinese government to project (naval) power into and over the South Pacific.

The Chinese have invested a ton of capital in a number of pacific island territories and now they are seeking to make good on their investment helped by the fact that the Solomon Islands are hardly a functioning democracy not helped by the ongoing enmity between the Malaitans and the Isatabus.

And ‘our’ response … a ritual wringing of hands because the reality is that there is nothing much we can do given that we are treading a tightrope in respect of our relations with China … and there’s nothing much the Pacific Forum can do either. The Chinese hold much of the cards in the form of debt owed.

Australia … a different story. They’re prepared to tackle China up front and accept the fall-out. Their military is undergoing a significant expansion which gives them muscle. And that brings me to my next point. The New Zealand military is contracting, beset by morale problems (don’t underestimate how much damage was done to morale using them as security guards in MIQ facilities) and a funding squeeze. The modernisation programme foreshadowed by National and given teeth by Ron Mark is on the back burner with only the Orion and C130 replacement programme a done deal.

I cannot in all honesty see Te Kaha and Te Mana (ANZAC frigates) being replaced. The two platforms are a quarter of a century old and while they have been upgraded the reality they are quickly becoming obsolescent. Across the ditch the Australians have already placed orders for nine Hunter Class frigates at a projected cost of AUD35b (sure to increase) with construction due to start this year. I don’t see any appetite here for that sort of expenditure. Rather I suspect the frigates will be replaced with a new generation of our existing Offshore Patrol Vessels (civilian spec ships without the combat redundancy of combat ships) which will effectively consign the RNZN to Coastguard status.

Our ability to contribute to offensive type operation will reduce to the five Poseidon Maritime Patrol aircraft and elements from the SAS Regiment. I do not count either 1 RNZIR or 2/1 RNZIR as capable of anything more than very low level combat/peacekeeping operations. Their ORBAT has them at between 400-500. The reality is (and always has been) that in order to deploy at that strength would require the virtual gutting of the second battalion and, consider this, Australian infantry battalions can comprise up to 700 personnel and so our ability to contribute effectively to sustained multi-national, mid to high intensity operations, is a moot.

Our neglect of the military is long standing and there is a price to be paid for that. Our ANZAC partners have long considered us to be freeloaders … that exasperation is likely to increase. I cannot imagine our Defence Minister had an overly comfortable meeting with his OZ counterpart in his trip across the ditch last week.

Written by The Veteran

March 27, 2022 at 11:08 pm

A rather large bang

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Given my interest in volcanoes a couple of months ago I looked at news of the underwater one near Tonga, but that was via a small, specialist web site and I figured it would not be of interest to NM readers.

Now it should be:

According to the Independent, clouds 12 miles high and three miles wide formed above the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano spewing ash, gas, and steam into the atmosphere. They called it “one of the most violent volcano eruptions ever captured on satellite.”

According to comments I’ve seen, the explosions were heard here in New Zealand around 8-8:30 last night, across the North Island. The following is a spectacular catch by a satellite, complete with shock waves like a nuclear test.

Tonga has been hit fairly hard.

There’s also tsunamis, with warnings issued here for the North and East of the North Island. There’s also been some boat damage from one wave at the Tutakaka Marina.

This is also a great shot.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 16, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Posted in New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Tonga

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With the news that the Solomon Islands PM has invited Chinese Riot Police to help maintain law and order in the Island State. This in addition to contingents from a number of Pacific Forum countries already on the ground.

The beleaguered Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, is playing a dangerous game. In seeking to divert attention away from the domestic drivers of the unrest, he blamed foreign powers for influencing Malaitaian discontent. While attributing the unrest in the Solomon Islands solely to geopolitical maneuvering is simplistic it provides a warning of how strategic competition can undermine resilience and contribute to fragility.

Clearly China, having successfully purchased the countries soul in wooing it away from Taiwan, is now calling the shots. The Japanese understood the strategic importance of the Solomon Islands in WW2 as an important base in their efforts to establish hegemony in the South Pacific. Seems China is doing with dosh and realpolitik arm twisting what the Japanese failed to do by force of arms.

We should be worried.

Written by The Veteran

December 24, 2021 at 10:23 pm


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Swearing-in strengthens nation’s foundation

By The Editorial Board, 25/05/2021

What a shame it had to happen as it did. 

Fiame Naomi Mataafa taking the oath of office to govern this nation seven weeks after being elected is an event of generational, regional, and international significance.

Today and for her conduct since 9 April, we congratulate Fiame. We wish her ability to form a workable administration proceeds and the very best in Government, as the leader of a nation whose fate is twinned with Samoa’s own. 

There will, of course, be legal challenges. But the symbolism of Monday’s event was an assertion of power by the rightful winner of the election. It was necessary, not only to uphold the constitution but to remind many in Samoan politics that they exist to serve the people, not powerful interests. 

The proper place for the occasion of Fiame’s swearing-in was inside our chamber of democracy; the people’s house; the Parliament. 

But it was not to be. Instead, Fiame and the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T) party had to hold an unprecedented ad-hoc swearing-in, something they were forced to do to ensure that a constitutional requirement that Parliament meets 45 days after a national election was met. 

Perhaps we should have expected that the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.), having played political games and thumbed its nose at the rule of law since it lost its majority at last month’s election, was not about to face up to reality and honour democracy. 

It is clear that they continue to intend to play the spoiler’s role after not showing up to Monday’s swearing-in and stating that the absence of the Head of State had rendered the event invalid. 

The Head of State’s attempts to cancel Monday’s court-ordered Parliamentary sitting were quashed; this was the fourth ruling against H.R.P.P. attempts to prevent the forming of a new Government all in one week. Having exhausted legal avenues they resorted to the cheap tactic of simply locking the doors to the people’s house. The party has no right to make this nation hostage while they continue to cook up last-ditch schemes to hold onto power. 

The rambling, shambling circus that has continued on now for seven weeks since last month’s election; it was really resolved within seven days. 

In the interim, it began as a tantrum by a leader who could not stand up to the truth came close to ending with him pulling out every stop to derail proper Government. 

The actions of Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and those who aided and abetted him brought dishonour upon this nation. 

These were the actions of someone who expects others to submit to his power; is unaccustomed to hearing ‘no’; and forgotten his office only derives its authority from the legitimacy provided by people.  

When the history of this country is written, these actions will largely define their legacy: refusing to place the value of the nation above their own self-interest.

Many descriptors have been reached for by observers seeking to capture the magnitude of the events that have gripped this nation. 

None proved hyperbolic in the end. It was only at the last minute and by the intervention of a man who acted in accordance with the high principles that befit his office: His Honour, Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese.

If anything captured the crisis of Samoan democracy, it was the image of Justice Satiu, dressed in full judicial regalia approaching the front doors of the Legislative Assembly with his judicial colleagues only to find them locked before humbly turning on his heel and walking away. 

And so it has been. The party that has ruled over Samoa for decades has played games with the law in the weeks after its election loss. Even on Monday night as Tuilaepa was invoking threats of legal action he was simultaneously – yet again – trashing the courts and casting doubt on their independence. 

Perhaps his frustrations are starting to show with his failure to get his way via the judiciary. 

Last week alone, on four separate occasions the party was handed four separate losses in court over attempts to scrap the election of forestalling the forming of a new Government. 

Already under attack from Tuilaepa while in office, the judiciary has shown remarkable poise throughout this political crisis and served as the defining line between chaos and order.

But given the tenor of Tuilaepa’s press conference on Monday, we can expect there to be no end to the games.

He disputes the legitimacy of Fiame’s signing in. 

As he notes, the Head of State was not, as the constitution requires, present for the swearing-in of her Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party M.P.s.

But similarly, the Head of State was fast taking Samoa down a path of lawlessness. If no swearing-in had taken place on Monday then the Government would be in breach of the law of the land. Samoa would truly be in uncharted and lawless territory. What would have happened to the nation then?

We anticipate Fiame’s swearing-in it to be challenged, ridiculed and diminished by Tuilaepa. But we also believe his voice is now consigned to slowly fade into the background, having done incalculable damage to his own once-proud political legacy.

Ultimately though ugly political disputes are resolved by the exercise of law and order, a low point that civil society should never reach. 

We have seen a recent upsurge in divisive rhetoric among the people of Samoa, dogmatically backing one party or the other as the true winners of the 9 April election.

It is our sincere hope that, whatever transpires, these words do not translate into real unrest.

But it was heartening to see the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, escorted Justice Satiu on his unsuccessful walk.

It was not his officers who had the building locked. 

But when asked for comment on what role the Police would take, stating that he considered it the force’s job to uphold the rule of law, which, he said, included the constitution – the ultimate legal document. 

“This is what we do every day,” he told reporters. “We’ll continue down that road until this thing ends.”

It is our sincere hope that the Commissioner does not have to become involved to further mar what should be a proud moment in our democratic history. But he has made a clear signal of intent that he is on the side of the rule of law: its provisions on whether an election can be voided or a swearing-in can be voided in breach of constitutional provisions has been made painfully clear this month. 

But another element of legitimacy is popular acceptance.

Rulers ultimately derive their authority from being recognised by the public as those in charge. 

We call on the public to put this sorry saga behind us and to unite behind a new Prime Minister.

Fiame has shown humility, calm, and wisdom as all around her has turned chaotic. Not once has she given off any sign of panic. Nor has she sought to stoke public discontent as a political tactic.

She has more than earned her position as this nation’s new Prime Minister. 

This is Samoa. We do not need force to be exercised to make a swearing-in law. We have already spoken at the ballot box, nearly two months ago. In the meantime, we have seen disgraceful attempts to flout and undermine the rule of law.

Whatever happens next we must never forget that politicians – and the people they appoint – serve only with authority that comes from us and us alone – the people. Ultimately we set the standards for their acceptable conduct and are the ultimate arbiters of what is politically right. 

Written by The Veteran

May 25, 2021 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Samoa

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With their Supreme Court giving the green light to Fiame Naomi Maatafa, head of the FAST (Faith in the One True God) Party, to form a new government ending four decades of rule by the HRP (Human Rights Protection) Party. It will be a test of the countries political maturity having a female Prime Minister in a patriarchal society especially given that the HRPP polled 55.38% of the vote against 36.5% for the FAST Party.

The fact that FAST won a majority of the seats (including the one Independent MP who sided with them) was due to the electoral quirk that saw the HRPP stand multiple candidates in many constituencies, (supposedly providing a certain freedom of choice) which allowed the FAST Party candidate to come through the middle.

Clearly the HRPP saw themselves as invincible and governing as of right with the Prime Minister describing himself as ‘appointed by God’. Clearly that arrogance led to their electoral downfall exacerbated by a general mood of dissatisfaction that the HRPP was too heavily influenced by the ‘elites’ and tolerated a degree of corruption.

Fiame Maatafa. daughter of Samoa’s first Prime Minister, was the Deputy Prime Minister when she split from the HRPP last year after opposing changes to the countries constitution and judicial system which would have placed further power in the hands of the Executive.

One suspects she will have her work cut out with only a single seat majority in Parliament. The HRPP is down but by no means out and won’t make life easy for her. But she is one tough lady with a pedigree of service to Samoa. I wish her well.

For the record both the Vet and Mrs Vet have had a long association with Samoa. Laupepa Malietoa, son of Samoa’s paramount chief, was a classmate of mine at Portsea Officer Cadet School in Australia and was a groomsman at our wedding in Terendak, Malaysia. We have visited the country often and were on the last plane out of Samoa before the lock-down last March.

Written by The Veteran

May 19, 2021 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Pacific Islands

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