The 1960 tsunami on beach-ridge plains near Maullín, Chile: Landward descent, renewed breaches, aggraded fans, multiple predecessors

Brian F. Atwater, Marco Cisternas, Eko Yulianto, Amy L. Prendergast, Kruawun Jankaew, Annaliese A. Eipert, Warnakulasuriya Ignatius Starin Fernando, Iwan Tejakusuma, Ignacio Schiappacasse, Yuki Sawai


The Chilean tsunami of 22 May 1960 reamed out a breach and built up a fan as it flowed across a sparsely inhabited beach-ridge plain near Maullín, midway along the length of the tsunami source. Eyewitnesses to the flooding, interviewed mainly in 1988 and 1989, identified levels that the tsunami had reached on high ground, trees, and buildings. The maximum levels fell, from about 10 m to 2 m, between the mouth of the tidal Río Maullín and an inundation limit nearly 5 km inland across the plain. Along this profile at Caulle, where the maximum flow depth was a few meters deep, airphotos taken in 1961 show breaches across a road on a sandy beach ridge. Inland from one of these breachesis a fan with branched distributaries. Today its breach holds a pond that has been changing into a marsh. The 1960 fan deposits, as much as 60 cm thick, are traceable inland for 120 m from the breach. They rest on a pasture soil above two additional sand bodies, each atop its own buried soil. The earlier of the pre-1960 sand bodies probably dates to AD1270-1400, in which case its age is not statistically different from that of a sand sheet previously dated elsewhere near Maullín. The breach likely originated then and has been freshened twice. Evidence that the breach was freshened in 1960 includes a near-basal interval of cobble-size clasts of sediment and soil, most of them probably derived from theorganic fill of pre-1960 breach. The cobbly interval is overlain by sand with ripple-drift laminae that record landward flow. The fan of another breach near Maullín, at Chanhué, also provides stratigraphic evidence for recurrent tsunamis, though not necessarily for the repeated use of the breach. These findings were anticipated a half century ago by descriptionof paired breaches and fans that the 1960 Chilean tsunami produced in Japan. Breaches and their fans may provide lasting evidence for tsunami inundation of beach-ridge plains. The breaches might be detectable by remote sensing, and the thickness of the fan deposits might help them outlast an ordinary tsunami sand sheet.

How to cite this article Atwater, B.; Cisternas, M.; Yulianto, E.; Prendergast, A.; Jankaew, K.; Eipert, A.; Fernando, W.; Tejakusuma, I.; Schiappacasse, I.; Sawai, Y. 2013, The 1960 tsunami on beach-ridge plains near Maullín, Chile: Landward descent, renewed breaches, aggraded fans, multiple predecessors. Andean Geology 40 (3) : 393-418. [doi:]


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