Day 518 [March 4/10] -- Not just one, but TWO, earlier massive 'Valdivia Earthquakes'

Today's Report
March 4/10 0800 JST
39°49'S, 73°15'W (Valdivia Marina)

We received an email from a Saito supporter, excerpted below, which got us looking a bit more into past earthquake trauma and have discovered information that makes us even more thankful this was not worse for Saito-san and the people of Valdivia, his newest "hometown" until ordered repair parts arrive.

A Google search reveals that not just one, but TWO, earthquakes carry the name "Valdivia." In addition to history's strongest earthquake, at 9.5 on the scale seismologists use, there was a much earlier one that struck during the original period of Spanish occupancy in the 16th century. This one is called the "1575 Valdivia Earthquake."

According to Wikipedia:

Pedro Mariño de Lobera, who was corregidor [chief magistrate] of Valdivia ... wrote that the waters of the river opened like the Red Sea, one part flowing upstream and one downstream. Mariño de Lobera also evacuated the city until the dam at Laguna Riñihua (Riñihue Lake) burst. At that moment he wrote that, while many Indians died, no Spaniards did, as the settlement of Valdivia was moved temporarily away from the riverside.

Accounts of the second Valdivia namesake earthquake in 1960 include mention of the Isla (Island) of Chiloe, presumed to be named after Chile, or perhaps was the origin of the country's name, which was swept by towering 25-meter (82-foot) tsunami waves, destroying the island's ports and killing 200 people. On the 10-nm river approach to Valdivia, the river banks collapsed, and a large ship sunk by tsunami waves can still be seen resting on the river bottom. This picture shows destroyed homes in Valdivia after that earthquake.

Today, the uppermost part of the island has a small fishing harbor, and a bit further inland is the Port of Ancud, about 2 days by sea (125 nm) south of Valdivia. Ancud was the first stopover point we considered for Saito-san as we tried to determine the best port for repairs and refueling after he made the difficult 800 nm stretch up the Chilean coastline. Hanaoka-san, who assisted Saito nearly 9 months in Punta Arenas, has a friend in Valdivia, and knew of the marina there, so the choice was made for NBSDIII to head for there instead.

At the time we were trying to decide which port would be easiest for Saito to reach without having local charts on board. Had we asked him to stop somewhere other than the further inland port of Valdivia, it is highly possible he would have been at an exposed mooring when the tsunami swept down the Chilean coast Saturday morning, later to be felt as far away as Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Japan.

If not for Hanaoka-san's suggestion, Saito-san likely would have been in Ancud when the earthquake hit. And had the earthquake been even close to a repeat of the earlier two Valdivia-named disasters, the consequences would have been all too predictable.

Assessment of Saturday's widespread tsunami damage continues. In Tirúa, a small fishing village just 95 miles north of Valdivia, waves washed away about 50 houses, bent iron light poles to the ground, and deposited several cars in the river that runs along the town.

Tirúa, Valdivia, Ancud, and Isla Chiloe

The email received from Derek follows, and is representative of a number of phone calls and emails we have received. Our thanks to Derek for his kind thoughts and continued support, which have been passed to Saito-san.

With great relief I read the latest two postings – I followed since last weekend’s huge earthquake and tsunami the situation concerned and worrying firstly about Saito-san’s wellbeing and secondly about NBSDIII.

It is great to know both are in good shape although a boat can be replaced – nothing can bring back a human being.
It will be sometime until the logistics and infrastructure are repaired sufficiently to get Saito-san the parts he urgently needs to continue his voyage and leave Valdivia.
We already knew this was going to be a big challenge we somehow didn’t expect all this “excitement” that nature was going to throw in Saito-san’s direction.
Kind regards,