April 13, 2024

This Week in Amateur Radio

North America's Premiere Amateur Radio News Magazine

Cataclysmic Volcano Eruption near Tonga, Shockwave Circumnavigates Earth, Tsunamis along Pacific shorelines

Satellites capture one of the most catastrophic volcano eruptions in human history.

  • Sonic blast heard as far away as Alaska
  • Tsunamis reported in Tonga, US West Coast, South American coastlines, Japan
  • Most communications cut off from Tonga, exact damage, casualties unknown
  • Ham operators listening for any stations in blast zone
Screen capture from Tonga Geological Services of Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano. This eruption video was hours before the massive explosion that sent pressure waves around the globe

Late in the afternoon (Tonga time zone) the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano, located West of the Tonga Islands, erupted with an explosion so violent it literally sent shock waves around the world, multiple times!

Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano is a submarine volcano, meaning the crater is below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The sonic boom from the eruption was heard and felt in Tonga, Fiji, and even as far away as Alaska heard the eruption around 3:30am AST!

The Himawari 8 Japanese weather satellite captured these stunning images as the eruption occurred near nightfall. The pressure waves can be see traveling at supersonic speed from the epicenter. (Petapixel)

Communications to the islands of Tonga have been cut off, in part by the eruption damaging power and phone lines from the main island’s underwater cable, which will take weeks to repair. Reports are coming in from Satellite phone call to relatives abroad that their loved ones are okay.

Australia and New Zealand have sent aircraft to fly over the region (when weather is permitting) to assess the damage. The runway at Tonga’s Fuaʻamotu International Airport is covered in ash and crews are working to clear the runway. Volcanic ash can damage aircraft and aircraft parts, so flying to the island is difficult.

Ham operators along the Pacific Rim are on standby listening for any stations from the islands to relay critical information, but no reports have come in as of the time of this report. We will update this information as it becomes available.

A powerful Tsunami resulted from the eruption, sending 1-2 meters of waves crashing ashore in Japan, Alaska, California, Oregon, and the Peruvian coastline, where two people were reported to have drowned and an oil spill has occurred as a result.

Follow @TWIAR on Twitter.

This is a developing story.

UPDATE: 1/21/2022

Elon Musk has offered the use of Starlink for aiding in returning communications back to the island and ham radio equipment is being airdropped to the island:

Tongan politician Lord Fusitu’a responded by saying: “Yes we need them to get liquidity in to purchase much-needed goods. Voice and data completely down with undersea cable severed.”

Fusitu’a also tweeted that he was organizing an airdrop of ham radio for basic communications, and requested for direct contact with Musk to coordinate assistance.


Several sites on the internet sourced this article.