Go to contents

[Opinion] Tsunami

Posted December. 27, 2004 23:03,   


“It was a clear blue sky without a cloud. There were few waves, but suddenly the water surface surged and swept through the roads and houses in a moment.” An American in Sri Lanka who saw the tsunami that recently hit Southeast Asia said it was like watching a scene described in the Bible. He probably felt as if he just survived from Noah`s ark or was at the end of the world. There were also Christmas holiday vacationers who woke up in the middle of the night in their hotel rooms and narrowly escaped refrigerators and cars dashing at them via the water, grabbing their pillows.

There must be many people who now know the word, tsunami, possibly hearing it for the first time ever, and wondering whether it is English or Japanese and how to spell or read it. Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning harbor and wave, which was adopted as a common term for “a sea wave associated with earthquakes” in a 1963 international science conference. Tsunamis break out beneath the sea, the Pacific Ocean in particular, when there is an earthquake, a volcano explosion, or a massive collapse of crust. It is not a normal wave, but the idea that waves and earthquakes are associated dates back to the era of ancient Greek philosophers Thusydides and Aristotle. However, the legends of ancient Greece interpreted waves as a passive image. Waves symbolized an important change, when an instinctive impulse inside explodes due to the application of external power or when arrogant humans try to confront a god.

“A huge tsunami, volcano explosion, or earthquake is far more threatening than terrorism.” As recently as four months ago, English scientists expressed their concerns in a briefing of a Royal Academy. They meant that Gee Gees (events of earth physics which take place on earth as a whole) were not being taken seriously in any country. The scientists pointed out the world is surprisingly lacking in safeguarding against Gee Gees, a clear threat, while launching preemptive attacks against “Axis of Evil” countries like Iraq, citing that the countries might have weapons of mass destruction.

It is said that the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia was not caused by global warming or weather change. But one may be correct to see it as a warning that there is something going on deep inside the Pacific Ocean. The more tragic thing is that, as is the case with almost all tragic incidents, there was the possibility of reducing the damage by even a little bit if there was an early warning system. It is not easy to prevent a tsunami. It seems that the first step to prepare against Gee Gees is to think of what humans should do to conserve nature and climate.

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial writer, yuri@donga.com