Tsunami risk in Villamil, Isabela, Galapagos

To better understand the hazards of transoceanic tsunamis in the Galapagos islands, we are trying to understand how the tsunami associated with the 22 May 1960 Chile earthquake (M9.5) affected the populations.  On March 29, 2014, Falk Amelung and Marc Martorell (IOI), interviewed two seniors who were living in Villamil when the earthquake occurred. The interviews indicate that the tsunami had only minor effects. According to one witness it resulted in little higher water levels than usual (“the cargo on the beach got wet”). Another witness who lived close to the beach (50-100 m at the time) only recalls turbulence in the water but does not talk about any flooding of his house.

Details of the interviews:


Manuel Caicedo  (82 years old, born on Isabela).


He remembers the Maremote del Valdivia. Cargo ship were emptied with little boats to the beach (as today, but to the beach instead of to a pier) at today's Marita lodge (wetland/lagoon behind the beach).There were rapid changes between low and high tide. Water rose to locations that never before were flooded and cargo stored on the beach (at a l"save" level) got wet.


Juan Pilamunga (96 years old) and his wife Rosa.

He came to Isabela in 1951 from the Tunguruaha volcano area. He helped building  the Convento (today IOI). He lived in the convento while contracted, and then built his own house (between IOI and volleyball court, just 50 meters east of IOI,  other side of the road). He made the cement for constructing IOI (he burned a pile of wood,  coral, wood, coral etc. and then waited 3 days and used the mixture as cement. It is still keeping the lava rocks together!


Maremoto.  He only remembers the turbulence in the water. The tsunami does not seem to have flooded his house, although it was close to the beach (<~ 50 m). When asked about flooding, he talks about water to the level of the window (lower level) of the next house to the east (at a lower elevation). (FA and MM: this was very likely the 1982 El Nino which many people pin the village associate with the most significant flooding event).


The following seniors also were in Villamil when the 1960 tsunami occurred. We need to interview them whenever there is a chance:  


Leopoldo Gil, Heriberto Gil, Jorge Suarez, Gregorio Caiza, Gustavo Jaramillo


Falk Amelung talking with Juan Pilamunga on March 29, 2014


Other relevant information:

Manuel Caicedo:

The Villamil beach changed rapidly over the past 50 years. The cemetery (west of the village)  was at much larger distance to the water then it is today. On the other hand, the eastern part of the village gained ~100 m of land/beach.


Juan Pilamunga:

Convento and his house were build on lava rock.

There was volcanic smoke  when the convent was build (smelling sulfforous). (FA and MM: this does not make any sense.  Why would the church build a convento on fumaroles?).

There was a lagoon (wetland) behind his house which he helped to fill.


When asked about terremotos, he said there were lots of tremblors, prior to a big eruption of Sierra Negra. This eruption was associated with a red sky above the volcano.  He was not worried because he had seen eruptions at Tunguruahu. This eruption was associated with fallout of red material which crumpled It was pieces which crumbled into small pieces when rubbed (this was  confirmed by his wife Rosa). When asked about when this was,  he could not give a year but  he said it was quite long after his arrival in Villamil. According to him, after this eruption the volcanic activity moved to the north (vulcan chico area)

(FA and MM: He must be referring to the 53,54 or 1957 eruptions, these, however seem to have occurred in the north, suggesting storng southward winds).


When asked whether the village is built on lava he talked a lot about agua. (FA and MM: this could mean that today's downtown area was sea at the time).


In 1952 there were three buildings  Villamil:

1. Dispensario (of medicine) at the location of the current hospital.

2. Prison at the Wall of Tears.

3.  One building in the area of today's coast guard building (needs confirmation)


Additional questions to ask:


What exactly was the third building in 1951. 



How did they know it was a maremoto?

When did his parents came to Isabela?

Was he born in the highlands?