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Annual virtual field trip shows tsunami impact on Chatham Islands 

GNS Science Principal Scientist Dr Graham Leonard

Students, along with their teachers, can now digitally explore Rēkohu Wharekauri/Chatham Islands and learn about the impact of past tsunami as part of the latest Toka Tū Ake EQC online field trip through LEARNZ. 

Toka Tū Ake EQC Public Education Manager Hamish Armstrong says funding education programmes like these are an important part of Toka Tū Ake EQC’s work to help grow the next generation of hazard-aware New Zealanders. 

More than 2,300 students from across the country have already signed up for the virtual trip, with content now available at link).  

“By helping young New Zealanders understand the natural forces which have shaped our land, we hope to inspire future careers and build awareness of hazards and their impacts. These resources are easy for educators to use and provide a fun and interactive educational experience for children around New Zealand,” Armstrong says.  

Scientific expertise and guidance were provided for the trip by GNS Science Principal Scientist Dr Graham Leonard, Massey University’s Professor David Johnston and Senior Research Fellow Kelvin Tapuke. The team spent a week on Rēkohu Wharekauri/Chatham Islands filming content for this year’s field trip and will soon conduct two live chats with students.  

“The Chathams are such a remote, awe-inspiring place and we’re excited for students to discover more about the geological history of these islands and their link to the rest of Aotearoa, plus see how past events can help us to prepare for future tsunami in other parts of Aotearoa,” says Dr Leonard.  

Rēkohu Wharekauri/Chatham Islands was selected as this year’s focus as it would be the first place in New Zealand to be affected by a tsunami generated by earthquakes in the South American subduction zone.  

A photo of the landscape on the Chatham Islands.

Past events of specific interest included the 1868 tsunami which resulted from a 8.5-9.5 earthquake off the coast of Chile and caused significant damage and loss of life on the islands.   

Toka Tū Ake EQC has sponsored LEARNZ field trips since 2009, helping thousands of students access the inaccessible and be digitally transported to remote locations all over Aotearoa and beyond.   

Teachers can find more information on the Tsunami: Lessons from the Chathams virtual field trip and access the curriculum at link)