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Waves of Destruction in the East Indies

Recent earthquake catastrophes in Japan (2011), Haiti (2010) and Chengdu, China (2008) 38 all happened in regions mapped as relatively ’low’ seismic hazard (Stein et al. 2012). 39 One factor contributing to this forecasting failure is the over reliance on the relatively 40 short (50 year) instrumental earthquake record. Although historical records of centuries 41 of seismic events exist in these regions, they were rarely used in hazard assessments. 42 Reliable data from historical accounts of earthquake and tsunami events can help 43 constrain long-term seismic potential in areas with little to no earthquakes during the past 44 50 years (Musson & Jimenez 2008). 45 An example of earthquake and tsunami forecasting success using historical 46 records is the reconstruction by Newcomb & McCann (1987) of mega-thrust events along 47 the Sumatran subduction zone. They primarily used Die Erdbeben Des Indischen 48 Archipels [The Earthquakes of the Indian Archipelago] by Arthur Wichmann (1918 and 1922) to demonstrate that a series of mega-thrust earthquakes occurred during the 19th 49 50 century along various segments of the subduction zone. Some of these events have now 51 reoccurred, such as the 2005 northern Sumatra earthquake near Nias Island, which was 52 nearly the same magnitude and ruptured close to the same area as estimated by Newcomb 53 and McCann (1987) from descriptions in the Wichmann catalogue of an 1861 earthquake 54 and tsunami (Appendix 1). 55 Arthur Wichmann was a German geologist and professor in geology at Utrecht 56 University. Much of Wichmann’s professional career was spent studying the geology of 57 Indonesia, including several expeditions to eastern Indonesia. He wrote the catalogue in 58 old German, but includes passages in Dutch, English, French, and Latin. It is evident that 59 Wichmann tried to preserve and use the original accounts as much as possible. However, 60 he is careful to note conflicting reports, errors in dates, and other inconsistencies. The 61 catalogue includes 350 years of observations of earthquakes and tsunamis, and some 62 volcanic eruptions for the entire Indonesian region (Appendix 1). 63 The observations are mostly compiled from Dutch records kept by the Dutch East 64 India Company of Indonesia (VOC). Seismic events are included that reach west to east 65 from the Cocos Islands to New Guinea, and north to south from Bangladesh to Timor. 66 Although the catalogue is cited in some tsunami and earthquake databases (i.e. Soloviev 67 & Go 1974), it remains largely unknown to the scientific community (i.e. Latief et al. 68 2000; Rastogi & Jaiswal, 2006). For this reason we have translated the catalogue into 69 English and included the translation as an appendix to this paper, and scanned PDF’s of 70 the original (Appendix I). 71 For ease of comparison and consistency, the English translation is formatted and 72 paginated in the same way as the original document. Footnotes with abbreviations used 73 and works commonly cited are included with the translation. The Index, containing 74 mostly locations, was not translated and readers should refer to the original catalogue. 75 Volume II also contains a list of additions and corrections for the previous volume. We 76 have also included geographic locations of merely all the place names found in the 77 catalogue as a KMZ file (Appendix II). 78 The data sources used in the catalogue are listed in the introduction and footnotes 79 (Appendix 1). The number of entries in the catalogue increases toward the end (1877), 80 which reflects to some extent the increasing number of observation posts. However, 81 many of the events in the later part of the catalogue are also the result of temporal and 82 spatial clustering from a few extreme events, such as mega-thrust earthquakes in 83 Sumatra, Java and eastern Indonesia. Other clusters may be associated and eruptions of 84 Tambora and pre-cursor events to the eruption of Krakatoa, which happened shortly after 85 the end date of the catalogue. Events associated with collapse buildings, tsunamis (flood 86 waves) and fatalities are highlighted by bold text. 87 Most of the locations listed in the catalogue where major earthquakes or tsunamis 88 occurred have experienced a dramatic increase in population and urbanization (see maps 89 of Padang in Natawidjaja et al. 2006). To make the catalogue accessible to those actually 90 in harms way we have worked with Indonesian geoscientists to translate large parts of it 91 into Indonesian. For example, the sections of the catalog for the Maluku and Nusa 92 Tenggara regions have already been translated into Indonesian and updated to include 93 earthquakes and tsunamis to 2010. In November of 2013 the Indonesian version of the 94 catalogue was distributed throughout some of the most vulnerable areas of eastern 95 Indonesia by ‘In Harms Way’, a non-profit organization for natural disaster prevention 96 ( 97 During the time covered by the catalogue (1538-1877) the population of 98 Indonesia doubled from 15 to 30 million. Since 1877 population has increased by nearly 99 an order of magnitude and is projected to reach 300 million by 2030. At least 94% of the 100 population of Indonesia lives in active seismic and volcanic regions, or in tsunami 101 inundation zones. However, from our experience of conducting informal surveys 102 throughout Java and eastern Indonesia over the past 25 years, for most Indonesians, their 103 sense of history, especially regarding natural disasters, is limited to the living memory of 104 the oldest residents of each area. One factor that likely contributes to the lack of 105 awareness is a distinct lull in seismic and tsunami activity in the region between 1883, 106 when Krakatoa erupted, and the recent past (Ghose and Oike, 1988). Another problem is 107 that historical records of past events in Indonesia are not available to those in harms way 108 (Harris et al., 1997; Harris & Prasetyadi 2002). These problems contributed to the 109 disaster potential of recent earthquakes such as the Banda Aceh event and other 110 earthquakes during the past 10 years. 111 Many of the events documented in the Wichmann catalogue have reoccurred in 112 Western Indonesia during the past decade and account for around 200,000 fatalities. 113 However, in eastern Indonesia seismic quiescence continues to mask the fact that 114 significant amounts of elastic strain energy is accumulating on many active faults 115 dangerously close to burgeoning urban centers. Like in the past, the strain will 116 eventually be unleashed and may result in a cluster of large events like those documented 117 throughout eastern Indonesia in the Wichmann catalogue during 1629-1699, 1754-1780 118 and 1814-1877, and like the cluster of events that initiated in 2004 in western Indonesia. 119 The recurrence of temporal and spatially clustered seismic events in Sumatra and 120 Java also demonstrate a significant increase in the disaster potential of Indonesia. More 121 death and destruction is happening from events that caused few losses in the past. The 122 reasons behind the greater losses to nature are multifaceted, but the number one 123 contributing factor is non-resilient urbanization in hazardous regions. For example, some 124 of the most seismically active regions of Indonesia, from a historical perspective, are 125 transitioning from traditional woody building materials to unreinforced masonry 126 structures built in hazardous areas. With limited resources to address these issues it is 127 imperative that mitigation efforts focus on the regions at highest risk, which are proximal 128 to active faults. Our hope is that this paper can help better identify these regions by 129 extending the earthquake records back far enough to reveal likely areas of high seismic 130 potential and to better constrain the locations of active fault zones in Indonesia

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