Lisa Ely and CWU Students Document Effects of Recent Earthquake and Tsunami in Chile

Caitlin Orem at a site near Concepción, Chile
Caitlin Orem measuring stratigraphic sections at a field site near Concepción, Chile

On February 27, 2010 a great Magnitude 8.8 earthquake and accompanying tsunami wave struck the coastal region of south-central Chile. The damage was particularly devastating near Concepción, the second largest city in Chile. During the year preceding this recent large earthquake, Lisa Ely and CWU student Caitlin Orem (now a PhD student at the University of Arizona) worked with colleagues from Chile on a National Geographic Society Research Grant to investigate sand sheets that had been deposited on the landscape by past tsunamis in the region surrounding Concepción, Chile. Charles Darwin witnessed and described one of these previous events, the severe earthquake and tsunami of February 20, 1835 that devastated the coast of central Chile while he was traveling there on the HMS Beagle.

Tina Dura at a trench in La Ligua, Chile
Tina Dura assessing her handiwork at a trench in La Ligua, Chile

The fortuitous timing of the recent geological investigations by Dr. Ely and her colleagues in the same area as the subsequent earthquake in 2010 provided an unparalleled opportunity to document in detail the effects of the 2010 earthquake and tsunami at the pre-existing study sites. Dr. Ely received funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation to continue her research in Chile after the earthquake. She was joined in the field by former CWU student Tina Dura, who is now working on her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.

A before- and after-tsunami image of a hotel in Tirua, Chile
Our hotel in Tirua, Chile before and after the tsunami on February 27, 2010. Note the
same Eucalyptus trees in both photos