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Helicopter flying (interior ambi)  








Interview 1:37:20 - 1:43:39 Play 1:37:20 - More
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Sanjayan Muthulingam  







2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
28 Jan 2005

  • Sri Lanka
    Southern Province
  • Yala National Park, Yala Safari Game Lodge
  • 6.358806   81.519542
  • Mono
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Equipment Note
  • Two-channel Mono

Show: Sri Lanka/tsunami
Engineer: Michael Schweppe
Date: 1/28/05

San = Sanjayan Muthulingam
Ravi = Ravi Corea
TB = Tim Boucher
EA = Elizabeth Arnold
MS = Michael Schweppe

2:10 EA-testing

2:50 MS-trying to find correct jack

This is all on DAT 8,

From EA-I am trying to be as small as possible.

7:17 SAN and TB-overview of GPS technique in bg, talking over zippers and pilot

7:58 SAN-Yeah, when you want me to do the point, exactly

8:02-TB-We're good.

8:09 pilot-is working?

8:10 TB-Works perfect, thank you

8:36 pilot-your, this equipment please you had forgotten, so why don't you hand over to the gentleman there, give it to him. Otherwise I will end taking it back to Bangalore, uh, this place, Colombo, my company is from Bangalore.

8:51 SAN-Is it? Are you from there? I spent a month just now in South India.

9:04 fx-beep beep beep

9:09 pilot-now this mic is a voice activated mic. If you don't make some funny noise before you start talking, I'll be missing few words. Just say something.

9:19 SAN-Right. It won't do it until you hear it. Hello. Can you hear me now? Can you hear me know?

9:25 pilot-yeah

9:36 pilot-OK, this side is all mine, from here.

9:37 SAN-got it.
9:42 pilot-and don't put your foot here, here.

9:44 SAN-OK, I'll keep it over here.

9:48 ambi-humm as chopper starts, growing louder and higher pitch

10:19 ambi-rotors start

10:34 ambi-sound fades

10:44 EA-There's nothing. Damnit.

11:05 sound dies

11:10 sound comes back

11:17-EA, SAN discuss landing, who pays

14:15 pilot-talking about walking behind chopper

16:00 MS-Michael checking

19:30 SAN-explains previous project in India to pilot

20:43 pilot-OK, lets go gentleman

21:00 men-underwear jokes

21:30 pilot-safety briefing

22:18 SAN-Tim, so Yala lodge will be number one

22:20 TB-Yeah, safari lodge

22:21 SAN-OK

22:24 pilot-I see, we are going there, not this one, no?

22:26 SAN-no, this one. What's this one called?

22:29 pilot-it is safari, Yala safari. This is Yala Safari, Yala village, the one that got washed away.

22:36 SAN-this is the next one.

22:37 TB-So which one, Sanjayan?

22:38 SAN-This one

22:39 pilot-This will be our one. Yala village will be one. OK

22:46 TB-yeah, I marked it on the map so I'm OK

23:04 fx-beeping to start chopper

23:06 pilot-can you hear me?

23:10 SAN-yeah, I can hear you.

23:13 ambi-hum as chopper starts, whine growing to motor sound

23:29 SAN-[unintelligible]

23:31 TB-yeah, exactly

23:33 ambi-chopper hum, rotors throbbing

25:55 ambi-rotor sounds grow, hum continues

26:44 SAN-[unintelligible]

27:14 TB-where are you going? [very faint]

27:51 man-cough

28:37 SAN-hey, Tim

28:47 SAN-yeah [unintelligible]

29:18 TB(?)-Full? OK

29:20 ambi-chopper noise

33:31man(don't know who)-very good, very good

33:36 EA-check

34:03 EA-Was it was it in the water, was it in the water?

34:07 man-elephant
34:08 EA-or walking? Huh

34:35 SAN-you can see the wave line pretty well from here. Like exactly where the tsunami came up to.

35:00 ambi-chopper

35:45 SAN-Tim? Number 5

35:50 ambi-chopper

38:40 SAN-Let Tim know that's number 6

39:50 ambi-chopper

41:06 EA-[unintelligible]

41:25 TB-lock, this is number 8

41:30 ambi-chopper

42:00 fx-rotor sound grows

42:10 ambi-chopper

45:09 SAN-Number 9 Tim

45:15 ambi-chopper

46:04 EA-test, test

46:10 ambi-chopper

47:10 SAN-Ask him to take a waypoint here, number 10, number 10, way point

47:20 fx-3 beeps

47:30 pilot-speaks unintelligibly

47:46 SAN (?)-Wild water buffalo

47:51 ambi-chopper

48:06 fx-beep, beep

48:20 ambi-chopper

49:24 EA-test, test, test

49:40 ambi-chopper

50:00 SAN-this fresh water over here, it seems like its been protected [continues to explain, can't understand over chopper)

50:15 ambi-chopper

51:19 SAN-unintelligible over chopper

51:38 SAN-Very unusual erosion down here, I don't know what it was, this erosion out here. Ask Tim to take another way point here. [EA speaks to TB off mic] And also if you could ask him what number he is on, I think we should be at 11.

52:03 EA (very faint) Tim, what number are you on?

52:05 TB (even fainter) 11

52:10 ambi-chopper

54:03 SAN-we're going to do it when he turns. Yeah, do it now. 13.

54:10 ambi-chopper

57:45 EA-test, test

57:50 ambi-chopper

58:04 SAN-Hey Tim. I'm only going to have you do the waypoint when we, when we make the turn in. No no no, when we turn, that's when I'm going to have you do the waypoint.

58:18 SAN-yah, it'll be number 14. But its when we turn that I'll say do it.

58:23 TB (very faint) OK

58:30 ambi--chopper

1:05:10 EA-test, test

1:05:36 EA-You know, from up above in the helicopter, you know, from up above here in the helicopter, you really cant see
1:05:54 EA-OK, well. You know, for days we've been walking these beaches and now we're up in the helicopter and you can really see where the wave hit and exactly where it retreated and in places where there are dunes, natural dunes, the wave barely made it much past the beach, in other places where its really flat, where there's no dunes to protect, uh, the water has gone in as much as a quarter of a mile and there's boats that've been pushed all the way in and debris, but otherwise, where there's dunes, its, you cant even tell a wave has even, you can't even tell anything's come 1:06:41

1:06:44 SAN-can you let Tim know number 16?

1:06:46 EA off mic-number 16

1:06:52 EA-But compared to the towns that we've seen, looking down now, you can hardly, unless you knew, you can hardly tell that that there'd been a tidal wave. Oh, I don't like any of this.

1:07:20 EA-OK I'm up in a helicopter.. repeats take with some variations

1:07:54 EA-another take

1:08:31 SAN-you're gonna go number 17.

1:08: 40 EA-another take-I'm going to try here to describe what I'm seeing from up above in the helicopter. It's a lot more uh you can see the stark contrast between where the water hit and where the water didn't. And basically everything is dead underneath us, until uh, there's a real distinct line on the coastline between where the wave hit and where it receded, where it retreated, its just lush, where the water, where the salt water didn't reach, its just lush mangrove and thick trees and everything's dead in a, everything's dead from there back toward the sea. But in places where the dunes, there are high sand dunes, the water hasn't even reached the vegetation its pretty uh dramatic from above, after walking this for the last few days, just being up above and seeing the extent of it and the contrast between what's dead 1:09:41

1:09:41 man-Elephant

1:09:50 EA-Its an elephant

1:09:53 man-see it there?

1:10:00 man-unintelligible One building, one village

1:10:12 EA-OK, what we're doing up here basically is trying to fly the contours of the of the fly the contours of where the tsunami, fly the contours of where the salt waters inundated the coast. So every time we see where the salt waters moved in, we fly that whole contour and they're mapping it, and then some stretches, basically with the sand dunes, the water hasn't really affected any of the vegetation. And I'm starting to feel pretty sick after flying around and zig zagging, uh. Now I can look right now, I can look
(repeats take on dramatic effect of dunes) Now below us is just muddy, brown, dead mangrove, pools of water, upside down boats and uh debris. And inland (repeats take on lushness) So nobody's been able to walk this coast and nobody's really mapped it since the tsunami. and from up here you can really see how powerful, how powerful a force it really was, it's just like everything below us was scorched or scoured. 1:12:53

1:13:28 EA-repeats take on differences in vegetation, purpose of mapping. From this vantage point up here in this helicopter, really, you can see the distinct difference between the vegetation that's been hit by the tsunami and that which hasn't its as though its just been scoured or scorched and there's a distinct line all along the coast between the brown and the green and what we're doing is basically flying the edges of that line and mapping it and its making me a little sick as we sort of dodge and weave in and out of lagoons. But its just, just really clear where the salt water has reached and where it hasn't. quite distinct. And in some places it really hasn't gotten far at all and that's mostly where the sand dunes are tall and intact and its barely discernible that there's been a tsunami and then in other places, the wave, the water has just gone way inland and its still there in pools, in brown pools. And after walking it for the last couple of days its it's the extent of it is pretty amazing 1:14:48

1:14:50 ambi-chopper

1:15:40 SAN-number 18

1:15:41 EA off mic-18

1:15:45 ambi-chopper

1:18:15 SAN-speaks off mic

1:18:25 ambi-chopper

1:23:23 EA-Test

1:23:39 EA-That's mangrove

1:23:50 ambi-chopper

1:24:17 EA-test

1:24:30 ambi-chopper

1:25:06 EA-test, test
1:25:19 EA-It's been a month since the tsunami and we're flying above, along the coast of Sri Lanka, looking at the extent of the damage. Join us tomorrow on NPR's National Geographic Radio Expedition

repeats take

1:26:25 ambi-chopper

1:29:21 SAN-Ravi, at this point we are outside the park

1:29:29 Ravi-huh?

1:29:30 SAN-At this point we are outside the park so we are going to turn around. Way point 21

1:30:19 ambi-chopper

1:30:55 SAN-Hey Tim, we're going back now.

1:31:05 ambi-chopper

1:32:17 SAN-we're on the coastline again

1:32:30 ambi-chopper

1:33:05 EA-At some point, can you talk to me and tell me what you see?

1:35:15 ambi-chopper

1:36:59 EA-test, test

1:37:20 SAN-So in all the areas where there's a bay or an inlet, or its low level, I can see massive inundation of water. Can clearly see the distinction, I was very worried when we were going to take this helicopter flight, given how expensive it is, how much difficulty we've gone through to get this helicopter ride, whether we'd be able to see the difference uh, from the air, but its very apparent from 500 feet what the difference is. You can clearly see the debris line, you can see clearly see the grass line where the salt water inundation has killed off the vegetation, killed off the grass, so un, I am feeling quite relieved right now that we're going to be able to determine the areas that have been impacted once we get back. In the areas where there are sand dunes, that have protected the coast, the water level has not come more than maybe 50 75 meters from the ocean. But in areas where there are no sand dunes, or there's an inlet or a bay then we have a large amount of inundation. What I see right now is a coast line, beautiful sand beaches, there is uh there's not a human presence anywhere I see, the sand is golden in color, I see, uh, large inlets, lakes, very very dark green forest, and then any place that the tsunami touched, the forest is not green in color but it is brown and it is uh it looks, at least from this altitude to be uh dead or dying. As you fly along the coast there are outcroppings of rocks, which help determine where, which help, I can figure out where I am based on those rocks. Right now we're going over a site that had obviously some human presence in it, I think there was a bungalow down here, there are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, there are about 9 or 10 fishing boats that are dashed up against the rocks, turned upside down, in the area of the forest around the boats, the boats are probably going to be the most, the area all around is all dead and dying. Dark green patches of forest right now we're flying over, emerald color, it's a sunny day deep blue ocean on the left hand side of the plane, we're flying south right now, wide, wide sandy beaches and then right now dark gray brown patch of the forest where you can see the tsunami had come in and it wiped out this part of the of the coastline. What I'm surprised most about is that I can actually see the damage from the tsunami from the helicopter. I really didn't think we would be able to see it, I really thought it was a bit of a gamble doing this, but we had no choice because we had an area where there are no roads, we tried to get here by land, we tried to get here by sea, this is really the only way to see it, so I am really surprised that I can see it. I'm also relieved that large amounts of coastline are apparently intact. And that that the parts of the areas seem to be around the bays, in places where there are flowing rivers it seems like there is very little damage. Because of the fresh water of the rivers, so I am surprised that the damage isn't as extensive as I would have thought. 1:40:54 from what we had seen on the ground, I am also surprised I can actually spot this stuff from the air and I'm relieved by that as well. 1:41:00

1:41:15 EA-Test-Any higher it would be too high.

1:41:39 EA_- Any impressions?

1:42:00 ambi-chopper

1:42:34 EA-He was about this far away as you look down, uh, that'll work.

1:42:47 SAN-We're flying over the Yala Safari hotel right now, which is the place that we spent 2 days walking on the ground and getting used to what the impact of the tsunami would look like. Can tell from the air it is almost hard to pick it out, its smashed up so much, and you can only see the white tiles and things like that scattered along the edge of the forest. It, uh, from up here it looks different only in the sense that it almost doesn't look real when you're up at this altitude. Its much easier to sort of say oh, it, wow, its hard to explain what I'm trying to say. From an altitude, it looks fake, it looks like someone has sort of broken things up, you don't really see the impact of it the way we did when we walked through that rubble on the ground. 1:43:39

1:43:55 men-unintelligible speech

1:44:20 ambi-chopper

1:45:02 ambi-chopper

1:46:31 EA-great

1:47:05 EA-test

1:47:15 ambi-chopper

1:48:33 EA-look at the tree

1:48:45 ambi-chopper

1:49:03 ambi-chopper noise fades

1:50:07 SAN-unintelligible

1:51:25 ambi-landing

1:51:27 fx-beep

1:51:30 TB-Well, that was a success

1:51:34 EA-What?

1:51:35 TB-I would say that was a great success

1:51:38 EA-Why?

1:51:40 TB-Because you can actually visually see from the sky the effects of topography on how the tsunami entered the system.

1:51:51 EA-When you're so close to the ground you really can't see that.

1:51:54 TB-Right. And how it was just a matter of bad luck where certain hotels happened to choose where they were building. SO.

1:52:01 EA-Some places you couldn't tell at all. I mean if, nothing.

1:52:04 TB-No. Its also interesting, I think, give it a year or two and you'll probably wont notice much of it anywhere.

1:52:31 EA-Those are some of the healthiest sand dunes I've ever seen in my life. Remember the
1:51:35 EA/TB-talk over each other, unintelligible

1:52:44 TB-It actually demonstrates how, if you've got a healthy system, how salient it is to that kind of coast.

1:52:49 EA-I know, I was looking down I was like, those people don't know how lucky they are you know, right on the other side of the really good sand dunes

1:52:59 TB-That's fate. Ten to one. No ten to two, sorry, about 2 hours. That's pretty good.

1:53:29 TB-got good stuff?

1:53:30 EA-What did you think?

1:53:33 Ravi-I think you got a very good idea now of what we are talking about, you know, you can't really do it from the ground, you know.

1:53:45 SAN-It seemed like the effects were narrower, they were pretty narrow in most places.

1:53:50 man-very few places had huge you know

1:53:56 SAN-Hey, that was awesome. I think we got it, I really think we got it.

1:54:02 pilot-why do you think you actually got it?

1:54:03 SAN-No, I think you actually got it, captain. I think I went along for the ride. No, you know, the hard thing was this bloody map, is all off. The maps off. Well, meaning, which are the sand dunes, the dunes have shifted. This map, the actual map, the paper map. So the rivers don't look like, so it was very hard for me to sort of know where we were, um, hand on Tim, wait, wait, but in terms of mapping it, that was right on, spot on. So what's going to be challenging is we were just going back down with these notes, so I can give these place names, so if I tell any of the local, and we say, you know, we were at this bay, they'll know which bay we're talking about.

1:54:45 pilot-no, once you got it, on the gps

1:54:49 SAN-then we can just overlay it.

1:54:50 pilot-what you do, you put it over there, the GPS, it will give you the co-ordinates, you plot it there on the map, whatever is there, on that, on the GPS, you can plot it on that.

1:54:58 SAN-yeah, we'll know the name. Yeah, I agree, that was excellent.
1:55:04 pilot-you can get a print out or something

1:55:04 SAN-that was actually, much finer turner than I thought we would be able to do. I thought we would get a big blob, blob. But we were doing the actual thing, like going straight along the coast and then turning back and going back.

1:55:15 TB-Yeah, it was a good idea to actually run that run the area of the of damage.

1:55:27 pilot-and on that lake you were able, I don't know whether you did it on the waypoints on the track, was it recording on the waypoints?

1:55:37 TB-Yeah, it was recording on the way points and the tracks.

1:55:42 pilot-[details GPS mapping strategies]

1:55:44 SAN-I know, and I'm just kinda trying to be double redundant and kinda panicky about it. And in the Bundala, the problem was that it was too narrow. So what we did was we flew it one straight line, I know where it started and where it ended.

1:56:00 men-argument about where they were on the map

1:58:51 EA-Um, the best stuff was probably what the pilot was saying to Sanjayan, but I he talked to me while we were doing, and I think that's gonna be good, and I also talked myself, I mean I don't know how much my hearing was off.

1:59:20 MS/EA talk shop

2:00:12 tape ends

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