Banda Aceh:  A View on the Globe*
Sandra Lach Arlinghaus  Ph.D. 
Adjunct Professor of Mathematical Geography and Population-Environment Dynamics

School of Natural Resources and Environment
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Please set screen to highest resolution and use a high speed internet connection.
Please download the most recent free version of Google Earth
®Make sure the "Terrain" box in Google Earth® is checked.

Download the following file to use in Google Earth®:
30 meter placemarks for Banda Aceh

December 26, 2004.  A devastating earthquake (9+ on the Richter scale) hit the Indian Ocean from an epicenter just to the west of Sumatra.  Killer tsunamis followed this earthquake.  These affected severely much of the populated area on the Indian Ocean perimeter.  Much has been written about the events and scholars from a wide range of disciplines have analyzed it from numerous perspectives [see a few Internet references below].  One way to look at the current status of the affected region around Banda Aceh, a city in northern Sumatra to the northeast of the earthquake epicenter, is to view the region in Google Earth®

Figure 1 shows a direct screenshot from Google Earth®   Scroll across the image; notice destroyed bridges.  Much land remains inundated, especially of course along the coast.   If one supposes that a tsunami wave might have been 30 meters in depth, then one imagines a sheet of water coming in from the northern tip of Sumatra and extending inland as far as the 30 meter terrain contour.  Click here to see a movie, made in Google Earth® , of the devastation surrounding a sequence of markers placed along the coastal region just to the north of Banda Aceh (the movie file is over 47 MB in size).                     

Figure 1.  The Banda Aceh region, two years after a hit by a deadly tsunami.

To track the 30 foot contour in Google Earth®, placemarks were located in that software on top of pointer positions at the 30 meter level.  Try it yourself in Google Earth®.  Download the placemarks file, created by hand, from the box above.  Figure 2 shows one screen shot of that file.  As expected, there is an inset area away from the coast adjacent to Banda Aceh.  Also, though, there is a channel that cuts through to the western coast of Sumatra in the direction on the earthquake epicenter.  This channel might have served as a back door for a double-effect hit.  Look at the evidence of screen shots in Figures 2 and 3; look at the intersection of coastal zone and the extension from the channel.  It appears to have been particularly hard-hit.  Drive around in Google Earth® and see for yourself.  What do you think?  Does the fact that the western Sumatra "backdoor" entry is wide at the coast, and then narrows to a channel through the highlands suggest even further piling up of waters (much as with tides in the Bay of Fundy)?  If so, one might expect to see damage above the 30 meter levels--Google Earth®offers that opportunity. Might simple, clear advice in the face of disaster simply be the common sense approach to seek out the high ground (here, perhaps, above 30 meters)? Observations such as these, coupled with the use of state-of-the-art support systems, might help guide future research or relief projects. 

Figure 2.  Banda Aceh.  Light cyan dots trace out 30 meter contour.  Red and white circles mark previous nearby earthquake activity (the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004 occurred farther to the west and does not appear here).

Figure 3  A view toward the west.  Scroll across as well as down.

Related References:
*  The author wishes to thank  Kris S. Oswalt  M.B.A.,  President Community Systems Foundation, 219 S. Main Street, Suite 206, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, for his suggestion of Banda Aceh as a region of interest to consider using this technology.

Solstice:  An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics, Volume XVII, Number 2
Institute of Mathematical Geography (IMaGe).
All rights reserved worldwide, by IMaGe and by the authors.
Please contact an appropriate party concerning citation of this article:
Hillingdon Harrow Barnet Brent Enfield Ealing Hammersmith and Fulham Hounslow Richmond upon Thames Kingston upon Thames Merton Sutton Croydon Bromley Bexley Havering Redbridge Waltham Forest Barking and Dagenham Haringey Newham Greenwich Lewisham Southwark Lambeth Wandsworth Kensington and Chelsea Westminster City of London Tower Hamlets Camden Islington Hackney