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An Official Report by the PPDRDG Ministry of History and Propaganda:

On November 30, 1983, at 21:46 local time, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale hit Diego Garcia.   It lasted 142 seconds.

For those of you who weren't there on November 30, 1983,
you can now re-live the experience of the

Great Diego Garcia Earthquake!
 


The Survivors Remember those TerribleTimes: Turn OFF Gilligan!

1983 and 1984
NAME = Daniel Halifko
MY QUEST = Wax messianic on need to know basis
VT of a SWALLOW = Consult compression algorithyms
E-MAIL = nad80@hotmail.com
NATIONALITY = American
SERVICE = Merchant Seaman (Oil field trash)
UNIT = on motor vessels Trojan Express and tugboat Ellen.F
RANK/RATE/JOB = I was able-bodied seaman, chief stewart- cook,
now I work in commercial paint stores
MY INTEREST IN DG IS = My Time There is Lost in an Alcoholic Haze, Help Me Remember!
SUBJECT OF MY STORY: = Actually, I Have a Real Story To Tell
MY WARSTORY = I was there the night "The Rock Rocked". The night of the Nov 30 1983
earthquake.I not only "bought the t-shirt, I SOLD the t-shirt,
to commemorate that night and still have one.
      I am concerned for my brethen that worked there during this recent tsanumi and I am clamoring for news, here on Dec. 28, 2004.
     I was a Florida resident, but oil-field trash civilian working offshore in Louisana and Texas. The experience landed me two six month contracts with Offshore Express of Houma, La on the motor vessels Trojain Express, tugboat Ellen F and a couple other tugboats in DG. I completed the 2 six month contracts with 2 months overtime, which afforded me 2 wild & crazy R&R trips to Angeles City, next to Clark Air Force Base in the Phillipines and a six week delay enroute in Madrid and Ibiza, Spain on the way back to the states.
     On the night of the earthquake, our tugboat Ellen F. was docked "downtown", walking distance from Seaman's Club. I was lying in bed asleep, when I was awaken by a low to medium hum & vibration.  First thing I thought was, the generator was going to blow on this 45 year old rust bucket on a tugboat. Previouly "Bo", the engineer, mentioned several times that the generator was on it's last leg. Think of Scotty from Starship Enterprize..."I'M giving
it all she got Captian....amymore and I think she's gonna blow."
     So, big rumble vibration...I go run topside, preparing to jump over-board  thinking the engine room is going to blow up,when I noticed a wierd small "chop" in the water, almost like jell-o being shaken when only half solidified. I saw all the lights go out on the island, and then I knew it wasn't our generator. I also watched this old make shift tower, that was downtown, silhoueted in dim moonlight, sway back and forth, just like the palm trees.
     Hey, we had electricity...so the next day was business as usual.
     But, I am really concerned...how did DG fair on this Dec 27, 2004 earthquake and tsunami?
 
 

November 1983 to December 1984
NAME = Miriam Smith
MY QUEST = Life and fun
VT of a SWALLOW = Are you kidding?
E-MAIL = mlouise_smith@hotmail.com
NATIONALITY = USA
SERVICE = US Navy
UNIT = ASWOC
RANK/RATE/JOB = Data Systems First Class
MY INTEREST IN DG IS = Stroll Down Memory Lane
SUBJECT OF MY STORY: = Actually, I Have a Real Story To Tell
MY WARSTORY = I was reading a book called "End of the Earth World News". It was a story about a meteorite that was to pass close enough to the earth to pull the moon out of her orbit, then go around the sun and come back and crash into the earth. I had just got to the point where the meteorite was creating huge earthquakes and changes in the waether patterns whe I fell asleep.
     About fifteen mintues later when I was in that wonderful twilight sleep, I  awakened to shaking.  My first thought was, this is just a dream from that stupid book. But the shaking did not stop. Then I really woke up.  Now I was a little disoriented, but having lived in San Francisco, I knew that running outside was not the right thing to do, but could not remember what I should do. Plus that night I had decided to sleep in the buff, so I wasn't exactly dressed for the occassion.
     Now, my roommate and I both liked our privacy, so we had used the furniture in our room to create some seperate living space for ourselves. As I was laying in bed trying to remember what to do in an earthquake, I remembered that we had stacked two short dressers on top of each other and they were at the head of my bed. So I jumped into action.  I stood on my bed, butt naked, and held onto that dresser through the rest of the quake. And that is my DG earthquake story.
 

From Michael Slavin
MY QUEST = Correction of Earthquake Infor November 30th 1983
VT of a SWALLOW = 2.5 mph
E-MAIL = mlsstocks@sbcglobal.net
NATIONALITY = American
SERVICE = Navy
UNIT = NAVSECGRUDEPT (Communications) Crytographic Technical Operator
RANK/RATE/JOB = CTOSN/retired
MY INTEREST IN DG IS = Stroll Down Memory Lane
SUBJECT OF MY STORY: = Please Select a Title For Your Story, or Select 'Other'
MY WARSTORY =  I was there the night of November 30th, 1983, just started the second shift at work when the quake hit. I worked as an Cryptographic Technician Operator, possessing a Top Secret SI clearance based on SBC by the NIS. As soon as the quake hit, I realized exactly what it was (been through several before in California), and advised everyone to get out of the building ASAP. Of course everyone was very scared, the whole building was shaking and as we scrambled outside all the power went out. (The one thing about the "ROCK", when there was no moonlight/stars out, it is one of the darkest places in the world)The other strange thing about this earthquake, instead of shaking hard like solid land in the states, the ground actually "rolled", it was almost like standing ontop of waves on the water!! I believe that was due to the coral that the island rested on/was made of.There was alot of screaming going on and it was "Pitch Black", you could not see your hand in front of your face!! A couple of us turned on the lights of some pick-up trucks that happened to be parked right outside of the security gate. Right when the lights came on the vehicles the inital quake ceased. I'll tell you right now, when it stopped, I have never ever seen (then or since) sssoooo many people light up cigarettes, smokers and none smokers!!! I seem to remember everyone out there that night lit up!!! As soon as everone had calmed down, backup power came on and we reentered the building to reestablish communications systems and inspect the site for damage. The Radioman at the other communication center was typing that the main water supply line in his building had split and they were taking on water!!!!!Crazy stuff but all true, we lived throughout the next week with the typical aftershocks and eventually everything returned to normal. The other thing I have been reading about the quake that day was the actual richter scale reading (stated to be between 7 and 7.7)
     I have the "Pacific Stars & Stripes" article from the paper dated Dec. 2 1983, It reads as follows: WASHINGTON (UPI)- An earthquake reaching 5.5 on the richter scale jolted the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia Wednesday but caused no injuies to its 5800 people, most of them U.S. Navy personnel, nor major damage, the navy Said. The quake, registering between 5 and 5.5 on the scale, knocked out electricity and communications for about an hour, a navy spokesman said. It caused a minor rupture in a fuel line, he said.
     The U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information center in Golden, Colo., said the quake "was centered on or very near"
the island of diego Garcia, 1600 miles south of Bombay.
     The British-owned island is used the United States to stockpile weapons, fuel and other military equipment aboard ships for use by the Rapid Deployment Force in the event of a crisis in the Persian Gulf.
      None of the 16 ships laden with the equipment was damaged nor was the 12000-foot runway affected by the quake, the spokesman said.
      Actually, the runway did suffer some damage and prevented the larger planes from landing, for (if memory serves) about a week or two. Obviously, the Goverment did not want everyone to know that we could not land our biggest bombers etc...national security and all.
      I really would love to go back for a year and just save a ton of money. Duty free booze/everything, case of beer went for $2.50, Fifth of Jack Danials $3.00 etc...lots of partying fishing, got tons of pics with just cases of beer in the frig and nothing else except vitamins.Still have my stereo system that I bought at the PX.
      Also, have a story about Hector the Hammerhead that I will put up next time. Much love to all that served on the "ROCK", it is a very limited fraternity that we can all be proud of, especiall to all those from 1983-1984. Peace to all and Merry Xmas, pray for our troops.
 

BRET WOLCOTT <ut1scw@yahoo.com>
The earthquake sticks out most in my mind. 30November83, about midnight if I remember right.  7.6 was the Richter scale reading.  Just got to bed with some of the guys still out in the lounge doing their thing.  Imagine waking from a sound sleep with your rack bouncing about a foot off the floor.  Thought the fellas were messing with me until I put my feet on the floor and felt it rolling underneath me.  Got to the door to the lounge to find Dave Vadbunker standing calmly in the doorway. Must have balls of steel....like most Seabees. That was just the start of a very very long night.  Up until the next evening fixing water leaks, holding my breath every time an aftershock hit, hoping the island would hold up, which it did.

ANNETTE SALVATO-GANGI <Nettesal@YAHOO.COM>
       I Remember the Quake of 83.  I worked down at the mini-ascomm at the time.  I was in my barracks watching movies.  It was the 3 story new barracks at the time.  The rumble started and it got so loud you couldn't even hear yourself yell.  We thought it was a C5 coming in to low or the wrong way.  Then the building starting to bounce. We all headed for the door and the 3 of us were trying to get the door open to get out.  Of course we were all very calm.  (LOL)
       We got out of the room and I just wanted to jump from the 2nd floor to the ground.  At that point, we thought the building was coming down.  My friend at the time grab me and pulled me to the steps and we ran down.  We got to the ground and you were just bouncing  off of it.  Well it felt it anyhow.   We finally figured out what it was and time just seemed to stop and the quake seem to go on for ever.  All the lights went out and we were all told to go to the center of the island because they were expecting a wave to hit.  What a joke that was, the center and highest point was the swimming pool.  Some of us went down to cannon point to watch and some of us just started partying.   I had never been in a earthquake before and hope I'll never be again.  Needless to say for the next couple of months, due to the aftershocks,  I slept  fully clothed and shoes by the bed ready to book out if needed.  We drove out to T-site within the next couple of days and saw where the wave had washed over the road and the crack in the building out there.  This experience makes you realize you never know when your time is up.

SAM CLUES <sclues@tampabay.rr.com>
       I left in Jan 1984, and yes I was there for the earthquake, a company called RBRM (Raymond, Brown and Root, Molem) were the construction company building literally everywhere. One of the problems that the earthquake caused was a slight crack in the runway, which at the time was being widened to accept the B52's I believe. The accounts I have read about the earthquake are indeed very accurate, especially about waking up in the morning in a pile of empty beer cans.

      Another 'funny' about the quake is that shortly after we had 'accounted' for everyone and reassured ourselves and others that we were ok, the Brit Rep, at the time Cdr Tony Hodgson, called all the Brit Party NP1002 into his office to get and give a debriefing. He allowed us all to call our families in the UK immediately so that we could inform them of the situation before they heard it via the UK media and prevent any unnecessary panic for them.
      Anyway, after all the calls had been made, we were all sat in his office and suddenly one of our ROPO's (RN Police) said "Hey boss, what about the "Flips" in the R&R Center?" He did of course mean the Philippino workers who stayed out at the center. Right away two of the ROPO's said "We'll take the Land Rover and go check on them".
      As it happened the Land Rover only managed to drive some of the way due to some fallen trees on the road, they ended up about a few miles short of the R&R Center so decided to go the rest on foot. Armed with only small flashlights to find their way, the two ROPO's managed to progress a few hundred yards when they heard some rustling and shouting in the distance. As they got closer they realised that the voices were indeed the two Philippino workers. As the two came into the light (obviously delighted to see some other humans!) they were ecstatic with joy and when their euphoria died down one of our ROPO's quipped; "Well guys, it looks like we're the only four left on the island!" ................. To which one of the workers fainted and the other ran away in hysteria! I guess you had to be there to really see the funny side. By the way it took them a further 15 minutes to find the one that ran!

SCOTT SHEFFIELD  <sscheff98@home.com> 
I was there for the earthquake. I was working in R-site, It was the end of my shift,  the third shift had just arrived. Then a roar approached which sounded like a squadron of low flying B-52's. My supervisor said "Earthquake"!!! at that second 98 % of the staff was out the door. Me and My supervisor and another guy from Jersey were the only one's left from our staff. Copiers the size of Volkswagens were rolling across the floor. Ceiling tiles fell, I prayed for the shaking to end so that I could live! the power went out abruptly. After the quake ended I was instructed by my supervisor to do a perimeter observation to assess any building damage. I peeked out the door and saw the prettiest site. US MARINES in defensive positions around our building. I was impressed with their rapid response!!!  As I walked pass the emergency generator it decided to go on. Yikes. Enough to make you shit yourself. To my many good friends that shared that experience I will never forget the camaraderie and cohesiveness under such a potentialy deadly occurence.  Hip Hip Hooray for the "Footprint of Freedom"  Scott Sheffield.

DANIEL KELL <dan.kell@attws.com>
         I was with VP-46 in 83 for the first full deployment.  Lived in D circle in I think D6, south side of the circle straight shot into the head. While there in 83 we had an enormous earthquake.  A 7.2 or 7.3 that lasted 142 seconds (some crazy person timed it), I woke to standing up next to my bed. Caught my bottle of scotch and a small carving there were on top of my locker and only then realized we were having an earthquake. My drunken hut-mate, Kevin McGovern, woke up about that time and started yelling at the people that were beating on our hut (coconuts falling onto the tin roof) I yelled at him to get out and stepped out the back door just in time to see the water heater in the head trailer shoot across the floor showering water out the top. Reminded me of a headless chicken running around fountaining blood. (sorry, grew up on a farm) Earthquake ended, I went back to bed.  Suddenly people started running around yelling tsunami, run to the middle of the island (the lagoon? that seem fucking stupid). At the time the two high spots on the island were the pool and a big pile of sand out were they were building across from the control tower. So I got my bottle and went over to cannon point to watch the tide come in. We went from low tide to just higher than high tide in about 30 seconds. This was about an hour after the earthquake ended. Total damage: some really scared merchants, whose ships changed directions at anchor abruptly, a wooded pier that washed away, a tilt to the water tower down town, some cracks in walls, and the 4 foot pile of cans I walked past in B circle the next morning.

DAVE WALKER <davewalker@zebra.net>
         I was asleep in my 3rd floor barracks room. and was literally thrown to the floor when the quake hit. The barracks were immediately evacuated and everyone was told to move to the "center" of the island, as they expected a tidal wave to follow. It was the only time in my life when I "knew" I was going to die.

      We later learned that the initial quake measured 7.6 on the richter scale. It wiped out the road to T site at one point, and produced several severe cracks in the T site building (you could see daylight through some of them!)
      I've still got the T shirt commemorating that night; it reads "I survived the Quake of 83 - Diego Garcia B.I.O.T. - 30 November 1983 - "7.6" on the front, and "Diego Garcia - Fun in the Sun or Shake 'n' Bake" on the back.

JACK KALTENHAUSER <arizseabee@email.msn.com>
     It is 2130 I had just finish with the "S's" and was going to cop some well desired sleep when the world when Rockin & Rollin.  I dove under my rack (I lived in the tiltup barracks on the 1st floor.)  The phone rings it is the EM at the MPP call to tell me that the engines were jumping off the floor. The power goes out. Time to go to work, Paul Denton and I bail out of our room and head for the MPP, the tower calls and has no power and and S3A on approach with no gas to "Bingo".  It is DG or the water. We go to the emergency generator and find it running but the main breakers are open.   We decide to "Smoke Test" one time. It holds, we have runway lights.  Now Security is calling, They want lights in town ASAP to help calm the troops.  We start check out the system. Open all the UG lines feeding the sites and turn on the Main Overhead lines into the Waterplant.  I am standing in a room full of High Voltage equipment
when aftershock #1 hit it is almost 7.0 and I get real nervous.  Everything holds and as soon as the shaking stop we turn on the lights "downtown".
    By the time we get everyone (all the sites) back on station power the sun is up. We get a look at the damage to the new messhall, the road cracks at the donkey gate, the swimming pool which has raised up out of the ground.
     No one is hurt, we all have our memories.  Boy I hate earthquakes.

DAVID KESSLER <thebbk@yahoo.com>
     I was there for the quake in 1983. In fact, I had just stepped off the van that brought me back to town from the airfield. I was working nights in those silly mobile maintenance vans they had set up as an AIMD (aviation intermediate maintenance dept.). I was walking past the outdoor theater towards the new 3 - story barracks when it hit. As a California native, I had been in a few quakes, but this was the strongest by far. Having been on the island for a good amount of time by then, I was hooting and hollaring and cheering the quake on. It was GREAT! Everyone around me was getting very pissed, but it was exciting. When it was over, we weren't allowed to go into our barracks for awhile, so I went and got my boogie board and headed for the beach. If we were going to get wasted by a tidal wave, I was at least going to get one last good ride out of it! Unfortunately, the tidal wave never came, but from time to time - up until I left the island a month later, water would suddenly rush up the island pretty far.  The waves were great, but unpredictable....
 

MARK McMENAMIN <seniormac@sprynet.com>
During the earthquake we got quite a few calls at the weather office I guess they figured we were the closest thing to seismologists they could call. We didn't know anything more than they did. We did call Golden Colorado and got the epi-center and magnitude info fairly quickly (those were in the days before stallite comms and E-mail).

Information from the Amateur Seismic Center (which no longer has its web page up):

Chagos Archipelago, B.I.O.T. - Mw7.7
                30th November 1983,
                Epicentre: 6.85S, 72.11 E
                Origin time - 17:46 UTC,
                Mb - 6.6, Ms - 7.7,
                Mo - 4.1*10*20 Nm

This was one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the Indian Ocean. It was centered at 6.85 S Latitudeand 72.11 E Longitude. It had a depth of 10 kilometers which for some reason was restrained at this depth by a geologist. It had a body-wave magnitude of 6.6 and a surface-wave magnitude of 7.7. It occured at 17:46pm UTC. The earthquake caused some damage to buildings and piers on Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos Archipelago.  The 1983 earthquake spawned a tsunami in the region. In the lagoon, on Diego Garcia, there was a 1.5 meter rise in wave height and there was some significant wave damage near the south-eastern tip of the island. A 40 centimeter wave was also recorded at Victoria, Seychelles. There was a large zone of discoloured sea-water observed 60 - 70 kilometers north-north-west of Diego Garcia.

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P.S.  On 7 September 2012, Diego Garcia experienced a 5.2 magnitude earthquake.  The entire DG Yacht Club membership boarded the day sailors, and declared an Earthquake Party.  Here is the recipe of the "DG Tremor Cocktail" specially concocted for this earthshaking event:

1 Part Triple Sec
2 Parts OJ
1 Part Spiced Rum
1 Part Vodka.

Make one yourself and celebrate with them!