Press release

The river Weser as a training area for tsunami prevention – TECHAWI instructs specialist from adjacent countries of the Indian Ocean

[22. September 2008] 

Bremerhaven, September 22nd 2008. They come from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Madagascar or the Seychelles: 13 representatives of the Hydrographical Surveys and Mapping Agencies from eleven nations bordering the Indian Ocean are currently participating in a two-week course at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. The aim is to correctly evaluate the threats originating from tsunami events. The extensive training and instruction programme was initiated on an international level to further the creation of an early warning system and an evacuation programme. It is tied into a long series of measures, which were taken by German research facilities after the catastrophe in December 2004 to establish a modern tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean.

“In order to develop lasting safety measures against tsunami waves and other marine environmental disasters like storm tides and floods, we need - apart from readily available data - specialists in the respective countries who are able to measure and interpret these data quickly and take appropriate precautionary and evacuation measures. For this, we need knowledge about the form and shape of the seafloor”, explains Dr. Hans-Werner Schenke from TECHAWI, the Training and Education Centre Hydrography at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association and the university “Hochschule Bremerhaven”. “The participants learn to independently carry out hydrographic surveys of the benthic divisions in harbours, rivers and coastal areas with modern technology.”

This further training takes place on behalf of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO with financial help from the Government of Italy. The foreign guests learn in theory and practice how to use the special evaluation and modelling techniques and the use of tsunami early warning systems like the “TsunAWI”, developed at the Alfred Wegener Institute. While the theoretical training takes place on the premises of the Alfred Wegener Institute, the practical part happens at modern shallow water devices on the Weser and in the harbour areas. The participants coast along the Weser estuary on the research cutter “Uthörn” and are trained on the utilisation of highly complex multi-beam echo sounders. Bremenport’s sounding vessel “Kiek Ut” is used for training in the harbour. The series of measurements on the two ships will last eight hours, the data will be computed and visualised in real-time on board.
“The particular advantage of this training course is the close combination of theory and practice. The participants will learn the complete sequence from installation, calibration, measurement planning, measurement, and analysis to visualisation and map production”, says Schenke. “These measurements are meant to be accomplished independently within the framework of the planned protective measures in the respective countries.”

The aim of the tsunami early warning system is to minimise the effects of natural disasters. Nevertheless, a natural phenomenon like the tsunami 2004 cannot be prevented and catastrophes of this kind will still cause casualties regardless of a perfectly working alarm system. However, early warning systems will hopefully help to save many human lives.

Notes for Editors:

Your contact persons at TECHAWI is Dr. Hans-Werner Schenke  (phone: +49/471-4831-1222; email:

Your contact person in the public relations department is Magdalena Hamm (phone: +49/471/4831-1376; email:

The Alfred Wegener Institute carries out research in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as in the high and mid latitude oceans. The institute coordinates German polar research and makes available to international science important infrastructure, e.g. the research icebreaker “Polarstern” and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic. AWI is one of 15 research centres within the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest scientific organization.


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Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.