Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunami confirms strength and power of digital connections

I was sitting at my desk doing my usual thing when I noticed a couple facebook and twitter updates from @wwwayne (Wayne Hodgins).  Wayne is a brilliant learning colleague formally the Director of Worldwide Learning Strategies at Autodesk.  As a strategic futurist he has presented at many learning conferences including DevLearn in the past.  He blogs at learnativity.typepad.com "Living & Learning Aboard the Good Ship Learnativity from his sailboat.

So, you can imagine the feeling when I first saw this twitter post:
Doing fine in Samoa. Was in harbor when earthquake and Tsunami hit. Bay dried out, boat was hard on ground. Water back in, as fast as it lft
As you are aware, twitter posts the most current tweet at the top of the stream.  If you want to experience the twitter stream from @wwwayne in chronological order, then read from the bottom up.
16:05 local No more tsunami action, looks like we are clear 4now.  Cleaning up, helping others, dealing w/ aftermath.
14:05 local, sad to report that we just found the body of the lost sailor at the end of the Bay.  Helping to console his wife and her plans
13:30 local w/ no more empty/filli of the bay so hoping we've seen the last of it.  Cleanup + search continues, no sign of other sailor yet
LTY Update 22:30 UTC  Moving one family aboard LTY who's yacht is trashed, Ruby back aboard, still searching for missing sailor  Think pos!
Wayne here, got a net connection I'm docked ashore again but we have warnings of more in 2 hours so standing by.
Can relay news to/from island if needed. Wouldn't believe the sights if you had told me about it ... truly difficult to comprehend
One boat beside LTY was floated onto pier, many with severe damage. Luckily LTY, being steel, is Ok. Looking for ways to help.
Internet seems to be out,. haven't checked landlines. Sat phone is intermittent. Currently helping boats get back ashore.
Ruby is Ok, haven't seen her. Couple she is with lost rigging and holed deck. Other couple lost boat.
Back ashore. Boat tied in the same place. Very chaotic and many distraught people. Husband of cruising friends wash overboard, not found.
1 death i know of several swept away+ still missing USCG a joke no one in contol no boats in water Surge setling dn will call w/ more
LTY+me fine circling in mid harbor to stay clear + afloat Ruby ashore i think she is ok with other boaters stranded ashore
seems 2b calming down but will stay out 4while yet What an adventure+ learning experience!
Boat is fine, more waves in harbor, but not as severe as first. Boat and self Ok, others not.
Some damage to boat, cosmetic in nature ... was tied up to a pier when it hit.
Assisting in rescue in harbor. Many boats adrift, lots of debris in the water. Had 2 waves in harbor that dried it out. Now smaller waves.
What was most interesting to me was that there was very little coverage of this event on the regular TV news channels.  Yes, some breaking news snippets here and there, but nothing more than the basic info...and they were 30mins to 60mins late.  There is nothing more compelling than reading a first hand account of "breaking news" as its happening.  We saw this same thing with the "Plane landing in the hudson", and the "Iran election protests".  Its truly amazing!

If you are interested in getting all the information you need when this stuff breaks without waiting and relying on the old school news sources then a great place to start is WolframAlpha.  WolframAlpha earthquake data helped tell the story with visual data.  This image is from Wikipedia and helps give you a sense of the islands that were most effected.
Samoa_Country_map.png



Once it was all over we started seeing the iReporter images of the aftermath come into CNN.
This is a great infographic from cnn.com:

From what I can see it looks like the death count is well over 100.  Normally this type of news would have seemed so distant and I, like others, would have simply viewed the nightly news cast images with a sense of disconnectedness.  But it feels very different, and real, when you "witness" the event through the eyes of someone that you know.  Even more interesting is that I don't think I've ever met Wayne F2F.  People say digital or virtual connections, or "friends" and followers, are NOT strong.  After this experience I can without a doubt tell you that it feels the same as if Wayne were a long time friend from gradeschool. 

Our thoughts and prayers to go out to Wayne and the people of the islands.

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