Chapter 3

Written by: Hemali Ajmera

A few hours earlier, unknown to the sleeping Aucklanders, a tsunami had wreaked havoc along the southern coast of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. It followed an 8.3-magnitude earthquake. 

Before 2010 and the massive 7.1 tremor that rocked Canterbury, a great urban myth in Auckland was that the two main islands of Waiheke and Rangitoto adjacent to the city would protect most sea-side suburbs from significant tsunami damage. However, after that devastating earthquake, the experts had realised that the two islands could actually amplify tsunami waves coming into the Waitemata Harbour.

After the 2010 disaster, Kurt along with his parents, had attended a workshop on tsunamis in Auckland. The acting sergeant conducting the workshop had concluded by saying,

“When a tsunami strikes, the onus is on individuals to be ready. There is not enough emergency staff who are going to come out and help. Each one is on his own.”  

After that workshop, Kurt had always been extra cautious while sailing, and his parents extra edgy.  


Kurt realised why he had not seen any boats in the water that morning, especially the Fullers ferries sailing between Auckland and Waiheke. They had been hastily cancelled following an emergency earthquake advisory from the Harbour Masters office.   

At the workshop Kurt had learnt many important facts regarding tsunamis, such as, the relative speed of a tsunami was directly proportional to the depth of the ocean and inversely proportional to its height. Hence in deeper waters, it is easier to ride over a tsunami than in shallow waters.  

Perceiving the slow motion of the approaching wave greatly unnerved Kurt because it meant that their boat was in the shallower part of the ocean. This was not a good sign because as the tsunami approached shallow waters, its speed would diminish and its height would increase. Probably this shoaling effect had made the advancing tsunami imperceptible to him at first, Kurt surmised. 

Kurt’s brain went into overdrive trying to recollect everything he knew about tsunamis. Unless he acted quickly, they would all be just another statistic engulfed by a massive liquid wall.

The drogues had been dropped over the stern but the boat had not anchored yet. Suddenly, something snapped in Kurt’s head. Rushing below deck, he called out to Marcus and Bobby for help. The boys knew that this was no time for unnecessary interrogation. When they followed Kurt to the stern, they saw him furiously tugging at the rope with the plastic cones. 

“No time to explain, just do as I say,” yelled Kurt, his voice muffled by the storm harness. 

Bobby began to protest but a glaring look from Kurt told him that this was not a time for unproductive deliberations.

Kurt ran back to take hold of the tiller and arduously manoeuvered the Skylark into deeper waters, directly into the crest of the oncoming tsunami. Below deck, Jasmine and Teresa prayed in terrified silence as death greedily rushed at them.


This is great Hemali. I am really impressed by your research. It was amazing to read your reference to Fullers. I wonder how the next writer is going to get them out of this fix.