What happened that day?

18 August 2005

Little did he know when he woke up on Boxing Day 2004 that within 24 hours he would soon become one of the leading scientists in the world providing expert knowledge on the cause of a tsunami that tore into nine countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

Dr Phil Cummins will give a public talk explaining how this disaster was part of the Earth's natural shifting processes: a disaster just waiting to happen. The talk at 1.30pm on 21 August will be part of Geoscience Australia's annual Open Day that last year attracted more than 2000 visitors to the organisation's award winning building at Symonston in Canberra.

Through his position as Leader of Geoscience Australia's Earthquake Hazard and Neotectonics Project, Phil was in constant demand for months following the tsunami: not only providing countless interviews with national and international media, but also working with other key scientists to provide the scientific background that led to the Australian Government's $69m commitment to establish an Australian Tsunami Warning System.

In the 16 years prior to one the largest earthquakes ever recorded and the resultant tsunami, the main focus of Phil's research positions in California, Japan and Canberra was earthquakes and tsunamis occurring at plate boundaries, similar to the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami. He completed a PhD in geophysics at the University of California in 1988.

Since joining Geoscience Australia in 2001, Phil has been monitoring and analysing earthquakes in Australia, within the stable interior of a plate, as well as assessing the threat by tsunami to Australia, especially those caused by earthquakes in the Indian Ocean. Just three months before the Boxing Day tragedy, an article by Phil explaining the impact of an 1833 tsunami that occurred nearby, was published in AusGeo News.

In addition to Phil's talk on the Boxing Day tsunami, there will also be talks about mineral exploration, mapping the ocean floor, petroleum exploration, and what maps will look like in the future. Other activities at Geoscience Australia's free Open Day include gold panning, rock identification, children's activities to make sun catchers and pet rocks and building tours. Opening hours are from 10am - 4pm. Geoscience Australia is located on the corner of Jerrabomberra Avenue and Hindmarsh Drive, Symonston.

Topic contact: media@ga.gov.au Last updated: October 4, 2013