Distribution, origin and transport process of boulders deposited by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at Pakarang Cape, Thailand

Kazuhisa Goto, Suchana A. Chavanich, Fumihiko Imamura, Passkorn Kunthasap, Takafumi Matsui, Koji Minoura, Daisuke Sugawara, Hideaki Yanagisawa

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172 Citations (Scopus)


The tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean transported thousands of meters-long boulders shoreward at Pakarang Cape, Thailand. We investigated size, position and long axis orientation of 467 boulders at the cape. Most of boulders found at the cape are well rounded, ellipsoid in shape, without sharp broken edges. They were fragments of reef rocks and their sizes were estimated to be < 14m3 (22.7t). The distribution pattern and orientation of long axis of boulders reflect the inundation pattern and behavior of the tsunami waves. It was found that there is no clear evidence indicating monotonous fine/coarse shoreward trends of these boulders along each transect line. On the other hand, the large boulders were deposited repeatedly along the three arcuate lines at the intertidal zone with a spacing of approximately 136m interval. This distribution pattern may suggest that long-lasting oscillatory flows might have repositioned the boulders and separated the big ones from small. No boulders were found on land, indicating that the hydraulic force of the tsunami wave rapidly dissipated on reaching the land due to the higher bottom friction and the presence of a steep slope. We further conducted numerical calculation of tsunami inundation at Pakarang Cape. According to the calculation, the sea receded and the major part of the tidal bench (area with boulders at present) was exposed above the sea surface before the arrival of the first tsunami wave. The first tsunami wave arrived at the cape from west to east at approximately 130min after the tsunami generation, and then inundated inlands. Our calculation shows that tsunami wave was focused around the offshore by a small cove at the reef edge and spread afterwards in a fan-like shape on the tidal bench. The critical wave velocities necessary to move the largest and average-size boulders by sliding can be estimated to be approximately 3.2 and 2.0m/s, respectively. The numerical result indicates that the maximum current velocity of the first tsunami wave was estimated to be from 8 to 15m/s between the reef edge and approximately 500m further offshore. This range is large enough for moving even the largest boulder shoreward. These suggest that the tsunami waves that were directed eastward, struck the reef rocks and coral colonies, originally located on the shallow sea bottom near the reef edge, and detached and transported the boulders shoreward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-837
Number of pages17
JournalSedimentary Geology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Dec 15


  • Pakarang Cape
  • Thailand
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
  • Tsunami boulder


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