The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory | Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory | Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

THE 1941 NEIBENLU (LAIPUNUK) INCIDENT

本鹿事件

A CRITICAL EVENT IN THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE BUNUN

Steven A. Martin & David Blundell

Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

Cite

Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2022). The last refuge and forced migration of a Taiwanese indigenous people during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan – An ethnohistory. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 28(2) 206–231. https://doi.org/10.1080/13537113.2021.2011545

ABSTRACT

Through ethnohistorical studies, this paper explores social and political perspectives during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan which led to the forced resettlement of an entire indigenous society. Ethnographic life histories and translations of official Japanese police announcements are used to explore the 1941 Neibenlu (Laipunuk) Incident (內本鹿事件), a critical event in the oral history of the Bunun, a Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous people of the southern mountains of Taiwan. We examine the reopening of Neibenlu’s Japanese mountain trail and its police stations offering new access to Bunun heritage to inform present and future generations. The study offers an innovative account of a neglected topic of indigenous resistance to imperialism, combining oral ethnography, and historical textual analysis.

Keywords: Bunun; forced migration; Japanese colonization of Taiwan; Laipunuk; Neibenlu (內本鹿); Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples

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The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory

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A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

Asst Professor Dr Steven A Martin

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies in Sociology and Anthropology

NEW RESEARCH WITH SAGE PUBLISHING AND ETHNOGRAPHY

Faculty of International Studies | University News

Abstract

This paper offers an ethnographic life history account of a Bunun hunter, Tama Biung Istanda, from Laipunuk, Taiwan, based on academic research and fieldwork. Audio-visual tapes recorded by the author in Taitung County, Taiwan, were reviewed and translated alongside extant Chinese, Japanese and English sources. The study constructs a remembered life into readable coherent sequences on behalf of an indigenous peoples, many of whom now seek international recognition as part of their struggle for essential entitlements such as land rights, access to traditional hunting grounds, and other natural, legal, and cultural resources. The testimony of Tama Biung Istanda, translated into English and summarised here for future generations, provides a compelling new source of data on the Bunun heritage that can help to assist knowledge for the local and scholarly community and cultural resource management practices.

Keywords: Bunun, ethnohistory, hunting, Japanese Colony of Taiwan, Laipunuk or Neibenlu (內本鹿), Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples

Figures 1-7

Click on images to enlarge.

Figure 1: Bunun at the Asahi Police Station, Laipunuk 1933

Figure 2: Map of southern Taiwan featuring the Laipunuk watershed

Figure 3: Map of Laipunuk villages, the Japanese cordon trail and police stations, and the 2006 Bunun root-searching expedition across the Central Range

Figure 4: Remains of the Japanese police station cordon trail above the Lu Ye River, Laipunuk

Figure 5: Interview setup with Nabu Istanda (left), Langus Istanda (informant’s sister, centre); and Biung Istanda (right).

Figure 6: Ethnohistorical Narrative Research Flow Chart

Figure 7: Tama Biung Istanda (1917-2007) Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun | Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu

References in journal format | Ethnography 

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  • Brown M (2004) Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power and Migration on Changing Identities. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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  • Chu H (2010) Disciplining and Cultivating the Colonized: Literary Representations of Ethnic Relations between Japanese Policemen and Taiwanese People. Journal of Taiwan Literature Research 10: 117 – 148. (in Chinese).
  • Council of Indigenous Peoples (2020a) National Aboriginal Population by Nationality and Age. (in Chinese). Available at: www.apc.gov.tw/portal/ (accessed 15 May 2020).
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  • Huang YK (1995) The ‘Great Man’ Model Among the Bunun of Taiwan. In Austronesian Studies Relating to Taiwan (eds.) Li, P, Tsang, C, Huang, Y, Ho, D, and Tseng, 57–107. Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  • Langness LL and Frank G (1981) Lives: An Anthropological Approach to Biography. Novato, CA: Chandler and Sharp Publishers, Inc.
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  • Li PJ (1988) A comparative study of Bunun dialects. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology (BIHP) 59(2): 479–508.
  • Li LL (2018) A Grammar of Isbukun Bunun. Doctoral dissertation. National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.
  • Linde C (1993) Life Stories: The Creation of Coherence. Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Martin SA (2006) Ethnohistorical Perspectives among the Bunun: A Case Study of Laipunuk Taiwan. Master’s thesis, National Cheng-Chi University, Taipei.
  • Martin SA (2011a) Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu)—the Last Frontier of the Taiwan Aborigines During the Japanese Occupation on Taiwan: Ethnographic Narratives of a Bunun Elder. The International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies (IJAS) 7(1): 123–142.
  • Martin SA (2011b) Rebuilding Mama’s House—An Ethnohistorical Reconstruction and Homecoming of the Bunun on Taiwan. Journal of International Studies 1(2): 61–78.
  • Martin SA (2020a) Ethnographic film and Bunun oral history in southern Taiwan. Available at: StevenAndrewMartin.com/ethnographic-film/ (accessed 15 June 2020).
  • Martin SA (2020b) Tama Biung Istanda Ethnography Laipunuk 內本鹿 Taiwan. University Filmworks. Available at: YouTube.com/TamaBiung (accessed 15 June 2020).
  • Martin SA (2014) Contextualizing Island Formosa Through Cultural Heritage, Digital Mapping, And Museology: A New Trial for the Journey Home to the Bunun Villages of Old Laipunuk, Taiwan. Paper presented at the 2014 International Conference on Formosan Indigenous Peoples: Contemporary Perspectives, 15–17 September 2014, Taipei.
  • Martin SA and Blundell D (2017) Cultural Continuum among the Bunun of Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu), Southern Taiwan. In Religion, law and state: Cultural Re-Invigoration in the New Age, (eds.) Chang, H and Mona, A, 215–246. Taipei: Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines.
  • Mao LC (2003) East Taiwan View. Taipei: Yuen-Ming Wen Hua. (in Chinese).
  • Neihardt JG (1932) Black Elk Speaks. New York: William Morrow & Co.
  • Palalavi H (2006) Bunun: the Origin of Tribes and the History of Tribal Migration. Taipei: Council of Indigenous Peoples. (in Chinese).
  • Poyer L and Tsai F (2019) Wartime Experiences and Indigenous Identities in the Japanese Empire. Journal of Military and Strategic Studies 19(2): 41–70.
  • Radin P (1913) Personal Reminiscences of a Winnebago Indian. Journal of American Folklore 26: 293–318.
  • Savage PE and Brown S (2014) Mapping music: Cluster analysis of song-type frequencies within and between cultures. Ethnomusicology, 58(1) (Winter 2014): 133–155.
  • Simon S (2005) Paths to Autonomy: Aboriginality and the Nation in Taiwan. Unpublished paper. Ottawa: University of Ottawa.
  • Simon S (2006) Formosa’s First Nations and the Japanese: From Colonial Rule to Postcolonial Resistance. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 4(1): 1–13.
  • Simon S (2012) Politics and Headhunting among the Formosan Sejiq: Ethnohistorical Perspectives. Oceania 82(2): 164–185.
  • Sturge K (2014) Translation Strategies in Ethnography. Translator 3(1): 21–38.
  • Tsai F (2011) From Dulan to New Guinea. Taipei: Yushangshe. (in Chinese).
  • Yang SY (2005) Imagining the state: An ethnographic study. Ethnography 6(4): 487–516.
  • Yang SY (2011) Cultural performance and the reconstruction of tradition among the Bunun of Taiwan. Oceania 81(3): 316–330.
  • Yang SY (2015) The Indigenous Land Rights Movement and Embodied Knowledge in Taiwan, in Social Movements and the Production of Knowledge. In Body, Practice, and Society in East Asia (ed.) Hirai, KE, 25–43, Senri Ethnological Studies 91.
  • Yeh J (1995) The Migration History of Bunun in Kaohsiung County: the Reasons of Migration and the Change of the Concept of Settlement. Master’s thesis, National Taiwan University, Taipei. (in Chinese).

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank David Blundell, Elizabeth Zeitoun, and the two anonymous reviewers for helping me further my argument. Special thanks to Nabu Istanda and Tommie Williamson (1955-2017) for the years we shared during this project.

2005 Field Research

Nabu Istanda teaching an Amis student at Mamahav village in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu | 2005

Steven Martin and Dahu Istanda below Mamahav village in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu | 2005

Dr Steven A Martin and University Filmworks discover “What Makes a University Great?” at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Dr Steven A Martin and University Filmworks discover “What Makes a University Great?” at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

UniversityFilmworks.com

Dr Steven A Martin and University Filmworks discover "What Makes a University Great?" at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management

What Makes a University Great? | Click to Program Playlist on YouTube...

Dr Steven Martin wrote and hosted this short film under the direction of Edward E. Vaughan. The video explores the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) and focuses on the story of leadership and the Dean of School, Prof. Kaye Chon. The video was produced by University Filmworks.

At SHTM, Steven discovers a little universe where students, teachers and industry professionals come together with outstanding synergy, uncovering a story of outstanding educators and leadership.

What Makes A University Great? | Dr. Steven A. Martin Productions | University Filmworks

Amazonia

Amazonia

The Tiputini Biodiversity Station, bordering Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

TREASURES OF WESTERN AMAZONIA | JOURNEY TO THE TIPUTINI BIODIVERSITY STATION AND YASUNI NATIONAL PARK

Steven A. Martin, Ph.D., Environmental Management

Click on Photos to Enlarge

The Rio Napo, Ecuador | Western Amazonia

Where is the most biodiverse place on the planet?

In my search for far-flung places to study, I met Professor Kelly Swing, an ecologist with the University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador, who believes the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) may well be that place.

Swing told me that the station's output of research marks it as a world-leading biodiversity hotspot. While there are other sites of similar importance, these do not offer the same level of access and safety for researchers.

Tiputini Biodiversity Station | Western Amazonia, Ecuador

Tiputini Biodiversity Station is adjacent to the Yasuni National Park, and together they form the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.

Location of Yasuni National Park in the western Amazon, Ecuador

Experience of a lifetime

My arrival in the Amazon town of Puerto Francisco de Orellana, Ecuador, better known as El Coca, was little short of disaster. On flying out of Quito, the Andean city nestled at the foot of the infamously active Cotopaxi volcano, we hit turbulence and heavy rain as the plane descended into the Amazon basin.

Packed with an odd mix of environmental researchers and oil workers, the 12-seat twin-engine propeller plane was forced by the weather to turn back across the mountains and the safety of Quito.

Above Quito, Ecuador

Learning there was a second flight scheduled to depart in a few minutes, I cleverly jumped in. However, this plane got delayed on the runway and the previous flight took off ahead of us, arriving first at El Coca.

First sight of the Amazon Basin near Puerto Francisco de Orellana (El Coca)

First sight of an oil drilling station near El Coca

Stranded in the jungle

Just twenty minutes behind my original flight, I landed at a deserted jungle runway.

Since I was not on the original flight, and in the hurry of the storm, the cars and drivers for the university and oil companies had already left.

I was standing in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, completely alone.

Alone in the Western Amazon

Moi Enomenga

The sound of the jungle grew louder as I looked around and saw nothing but trees and mud. It was my first time in the Amazon and I started to think that I might just be in serious trouble.

There was a light rain, no shelter, and the only thing to do was follow the muddy track and see where it led. But which way to go, left or right?

At that moment, a tall, strikingly confident Indian strode out from the forest and walked straight up to me.

He spoke to me in Spanish, "What are you doing here alone?"

Moi Enomenga, Huaorani Amazon eco-warrior and environmental celebrity

I was half terrified, and half relieved to see someone. In halting Spanish, I explained that I was a visitor from the University, and that my car had left without me because I had arrived on a later plane than expected. I was worried he might stab me and steal my camera, but instead he offered to show me the way to the hotel normally used by the university in El Coca.

Although I was stranded for a few days until I got things sorted out, it allowed time to get to know my rescuer. It turned out that he was not just any random passer-by, but a famous environmental campaigner – Moi Enomenga, Huaorani Indian and Amazon eco-warrior.

Interview with Moi Enomenga

Amazon celebrity

Moi is an Amazon celebrity, the son of a proud indigenous leader who chose the traditional life over the ideology of early Christian missionaries. His father took his family deep into the Western Amazon to an area known today as Yasuni National Park, and so instead of learning the Bible, Moi learned deep indigenous knowledge and the cultural traditions of the Huaorani.

The man I met near the runway at El Coca, little did I know, was also the Huaorani jungle boy featured in Savages, a best-selling book by award-winning writer Joe Kane. Moi had matured to become a leader of the local indigenous movement trying to defend the rainforest against the oil companies.

He certainly helped me out – a total stranger in the forest.

"Savages" by Joe Cane, with Moi Enomenga

A voice for the forest

Moi's example shows that one man who chooses to raise his voice can speak for the collective resources of the largest – and most endangered – natural habitat on the planet. Protecting the Amazon rainforest is his life's work, and the Yasuni National Park and surrounding area are testament to his ongoing success.

His recent project is the creation of a new protected area named Yame Reserve, in honor of his late father. In the light of all the growing threats to his environmental and cultural heritage, his willingness to network with tourism organizations, conservation groups, the Ecuadorian government and the United Nations offers hope to this globally vital, and profoundly endangered, natural paradise.

National Geographic | Ecuador's Yasuní National Park

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC 2012 | "Ecuador's Yasuní Park is one of the Amazon's last wild frontiers, boasting an incredible biodiversity—treetop orchids, prowling jaguars, nearly 600 species of birds—and serving as home for two indigenous nations. But a vast untapped oil supply beneath the forest floor is attracting the attention of multinational oil companies. National Geographic sent a team of five photographers, each with a different specialty, into the heart of the Amazon to document the delicate balance of life in Yasuní and how it is being impacted by the demand for oil."

Oil pumping station and water pollution in the Amazon rainforest | Steven Martin

Puerto Francisco de Orellana (El Coca)

El Coca is Ecuador's gateway to what the locals call El Oriente – the East of Ecuador, also known to outsiders as the western Amazon. El Coca is a rustic frontier town of around 45,000 people built at the confluence of the Coca, Napo and Payamino Rivers.

Puerto Francisco de Orellana, or El Coca | Amazon frontier town of nearly 45,000 people and gateway to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Yasuni National Park

It was an Ecuadorian holiday weekend and I was unable to get a call though to USFQ. Given my limited time schedule, it was looking like the Tiputini trip was off.

I didn't know exactly where the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) was, and my assumption that it was "just down the river" was way off.

For several days, I explored El Coca. The Spanish I gained from studying abroad in Spain was a godsend. I met taxi drivers and boat transport services, and eventually a group of oil workers at a makeshift helicopter pad.

They told me it was next to impossible to get to TBS without an organized expedition. The oil companies and other interests had a variety of armed guards, checkpoints and road-blocks along the route. There were also the issues of traversing several rivers, and, of course, a wide range of natural predators, including snakes.

Making phone contact with the university was the only way in.

People of El Coca

People of El Coca

People of El Coca

Moonlight expedition

After several days of this, I returned to the hotel one evening, and reception informed me that USFQ had called. My transport to Tiputini was arranged.

Due to my delay and problems in scheduling transport, I would have to travel to the Biodiversity Station at night. My first reaction was shock, but I figured I was in good hands with USFQ, and there was a full moon and clear sky.

It was a long night, traveling by jeep, by boat, and on foot. First we traveled several hours downstream on the Napo River to the village of Pompeya and the entrance of an oil operation.

In order to pass the oil company's security checkpoint, I needed to produce my passport and the yellow fever vaccination card, which I had gotten in Quito a week earlier. The guards at the checkpoint were armed, dressed in military fatigues, and seemed larger than life.

Next, we drove several more hours by jeep to the reach the bank of the Tiputini River, arriving at just after midnight.

The best was yet to come – we had to navigate the river, a deep and narrow channel carved through the clay that forms the Amazon Basin.

Moonlight on the Tiputini River | Franklin, a Quechua guide with USFQ, whistles to signal our arrival

In a motorized wooden canoe, with the help of a small group of Quechua Indian guides, we powered down the Tiputini River toward the station, dodging obstacles in the water as insects pelted us in the face for two hours.

My knuckles turned white from clutching the sides of the canoe to avoid being catapulted into the river as it tilted sharply left or right to avoid rocks, branches and sand-banks.

Above, the river naturally created an opening to the sky, and the full moon was visible the entire night. The air was fresh and clean. Once my eyes adjusted, I could clearly see the river and banks in the moonlight, and I felt exhilarated to be in the real Amazon at last.

I never felt more alive.

Tiputini Biodiversity Station | Patrice Adret

Select Photos | Travels and Guides at Tiputini

Click on photos to enlarge

Quechua guides at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station

Franklin, my Tiputini guide

Tiputini River transport canoe and guide

Rainforest research observation tower at TBS

Bromeliads in the rainforest canopy at the Tiputini observation tower

View of the Tiputini River below the Rainforest

View of the Tiputini River from TBS during the dry season

Curious Toucan

TBS researchers accommodations


Learn more

If you feel motivated to learn more about the University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ)'s Tiputini Biodiversity Station, or would like to arrange for a public talk on this topic or other Learning Adventures, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

For study abroad, there is nowhere on earth more exciting, remote or rewarding.

Thank you.

–Steven Martin

Thank you for reading my story of the journey to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Yasuni National Park

At the request f the TBS administration, I wrote the following letters supporting public and private awareness.


 

Contact USFQ and TBS

Interested parties, including students and scientists, can contact USFQ for more information on joining or supporting education and conservation efforts for these outstanding programs:

Amazon Parrot - Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin - Tiputini Biodiversity Station Conservation
Galapagos

Galapagos

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHARLES DARWIN | EVOLUTION, ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Steven A. Martin, Ph.D., Environmental Management

Click on photos to enlarge.

Galapagos brown pelican

  • View website photos as 1800x1200 slideshow

In 2003, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Ecuador, invited me to visit the opening of a new international college campus on San Cristobal Island – in the Galapagos!

I didn't waste any time in booking the flight to Quito to meet the staff who were developing the facility and study program.

Study Abroad Journal | 2003

After a meeting at the university main campus in Quito, I flew to San Cristobal, the administrative capital of the islands.

I arrived at the new campus in the afternoon, and although the accommodations were not yet officially open to staff and students, they made an exception, and I was among the very first to stay at the new facility.

Welcome to San Cristóbal | Galápagos National Park Headquarters

Arriving in San Cristobal

USFQ | GAIAS | GSC | San Cristobal

What I found was way beyond my expectations – a new college campus built directly in front of a world-class beach!

Today the USFQ facility in the Galapagos has grown to include a scientific research center developed in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

Below are a few photos taken in 2003 when the original community college opened to offer students on the island an opportunity to study locally.

Study on the beach | San Cristobal

USFQ GAIAS | GSC | Study Abroad on San Cristobal

USFQ programming

At the time of my visit in 2003, the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) was established as a branch of the USFQ in Quito. Current programing includes USFQ Galapagos semester abroad opportunities, service learning projects, and ongoing projects with the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Semester program with USFQ

As of 2018, international students who study at USFQ can select semester-long courses from one of four academic tracks in the biological and social sciences:

  • Evolution, Ecology and Conservation
  • Marine Ecology
  • People, Politics and the Environment
  • Sustainable Tourism

Helpful links

The newly-opened USFQ campus | 2003

Oceanfront classrooms | 2003

USFQ accommodations | 2003

San Cristóbal | Administrative capital of Galápagos Province

The Galápagos Islands are located nearly 1,000 kilometers west of the South American coast, and I stayed on San Cristobal, the fifth largest and easternmost island in the archipelago.

I knew the islands received large waves year-round from the northern and southern hemispheres – But was it safe to go surfing there, considering the abundance of marine life and a wide variety of shark species?

Map of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Fortunately, I had packed several surfboards for the trip, and was able to meet up with the local surfers, who explained that although sharks are definitely of concern, they are well-fed due to the natural abundance of fish in coastal waters, and not generally interested in eating surfers.

However, Galapagos sea lions were another story, particularly males protecting females, and mothers protecting their young. Males reach weights over 400 kilos and females average 120 kilos when full grown. Although they barked at me in the water, and chased me around a little, nothing serious happened.

I had surfed among frisky sea lions before in California, but sharing the waves with large marine iguanas was a first for me. I watched as they launched themselves off the rocks and dove through the big waves like fearless prehistoric surfers.

A Galapagos marine iguana checks the surf before taking the plunge

Galapagos Marine Iguana | Surfing Galapagos

In 1835, a 26-year-old Charles Darwin (1809-1882) arrived in the Galapagos Islands aboard the Beagle, a 10-gun brig-sloop, captained by Robert FitzRoy, landing at San Cristóbal.

Forever touched by his experiences in the Galapagos, Darwin went on to develop his theory of evolution, and is best remembered for his research on the process of natural selection. His name, now a globally-recognized acronym for his scientific theories, is often expressed as simply "Darwinism".

As far as we know, Darwin didn't surf, but it is safe to assume that he marveled at the big waves, as well as the wildlife around San Cristobal.

Today, the port city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, capital of the Galápagos province, remains the oldest permanent settlement of the islands.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno | San Cristobal

Evolution in theory and practice

Having the opportunity to visit this amazing place, following in the footsteps of Darwin, was a truly life-changing experience. Iguanas diving into the sea, seals of many different types, colors, shapes and sizes, the incredible variety of birdlife, dolphins and sharks swimming near the coast, and giant land-bound tortoises, for which the archipelago is named, all combined to make it one of the most incredible places on Earth.

Like the tortoises, my time in Galapagos was mainly land-based, in contrast to tourists who spend most of their time in the islands on live-aboard boats. While I may not have had the opportunity to travel between the 13 different islands, go diving, or see very much of the marine wildlife, I was there on my own, independent of tour guides and groups, rules and regulations.

I was free to walk to local surf spots in the mornings, paddle out to sea, sometimes alone, and to explore inland areas in the afternoons and evenings to see the flora, fauna, and the geographical features of the island.

Frigatebird | Crater Lagoon

Around San Cristobal

One of the benefits of spending time on the same island was getting to know the local people. I met fishermen, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, surfers, and the new staff who were setting up the university program and community college.

I fondly remember the smell and taste of home-grown Galapagos coffee, kindly shared by the owner of a small cafe in the early mornings before opening to the public.

Appreciating natural history and travel

Like Darwin, spending time in the Galapagos changed the direction of my life.

This amazing, one-of-a-kind world of biodiversity, deepened my appreciation of natural history and my enthusiasm for learning and travel.

Sunbathing on the beach in front of the USFQ campus

Toward the end of my stay, I called home to the US from a payphone right on the beach, and agreed to sell my stake in our business, Surf Lessons Hawaii, to my business partner. With that cash, I was free to attend graduate school in Taiwan and begin to realize my plan to launch an online magazine, the Study Abroad Journal.

Learning is an adventure.

Thank you for visiting my Galapagos Learning Adventure page.

I hope you enjoy my photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about this amazing educational opportunity, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Online Resources

San Cristobal | Galapagos

Spain

Spain

College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS) Center at the International College of Seville, Spain

SEVILLE, SPAIN 1998 | LA PRIMAVERA, LA SANGRE ALTERA

Welcome to my Spain semester abroad Learning Adventure. I hope you enjoy the pictures, and find the links useful.

This page is part of a series of journals documenting my Grand Tour of education abroad programs, which culminated in my becoming a professional academic.

In 1998 I spent a semester abroad in Seville, Spain, with St. Bonaventure University (SBU), College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS), and the International College of Seville (ICS).

  • Campus-based courses | Culture and society of Spain, History of Spain, and Spanish language.
  • Travels in Spain | Cordoba, Granada, Rhonda, Marbella, Madrid, Mallorca, and Segovia.
  • International travels | Morocco and Portugal.

Spain and the Iberian Peninsula

For more than 15,000 years, people have been creating extraordinary art on the Iberian Peninsula.

Beginning with images of bison painted on cave walls at Altamira over 15,000 years ago, the art that we can see today in Spain covers the whole of human history. The ancient Greeks and Phoenicians, the Romans who dominated Spain for six hundred years, the invading Germanic Visigoths, and the Moors from North Africa who crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, bringing Islamic art, architecture, and religion, all left their artistic and cultural legacy on this unique country. As an American, the experience of living and studying in Spain brought history into my life in a way that I hadn’t encountered before.

Paleolithic art | Altamira bison | Click to Altamira Museum

Topographical Map of Spain | Click to enlarge


Spring semester in Seville

During the 5 months that I studied in Seville, I saw the people and parks come to life with the arrival of spring, experiencing first-hand the Spanish idiom "La primavera, la sangre altera" (In Spring, the blood rises). As the green leaves and orange blossoms appeared, and the vibrant bougainvillea came alive in the parks, so came the sunshine, warm weather, and tourists from around the globe.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Springtime in Seville's Maria Luisa Park

Early Spring in Seville

Early Spring in Seville

Springtime in Seville

Guadalquivir River


The Seville program

In 1998, the Seville semester abroad program was designed so that our courses were held Monday through Thursday, giving us three day weekends for traveling outside the city.

After classes on weekdays, I explored the many local sites around Seville, such as the Alcazar, Cathedral, Bullring, Italica, Plaza de San Francisco, Torre del Oro, and other parks and museums.

Click on a photo to visit a virtual museum.

Seville Cathedral

Torre del Oro

Seville Bullring


My neighborhood | Porvenir

While in Seville, I lived in a small apartment in a neighborhood named Porvenir. It was a coincidence that the Sevillian apartment owners, who were my host family, shared my surname. The sign above the entrance to my door read "Casa Martin".

Friends near the Porvenir Apartment

My Porvenir Apartment | "Casa Martin"

Spring at the Porvenir Apartment

Porvenir means "for the future" due to the planned construction ahead of the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World's Fair. It included not only the housing area where I lived, but also two current landmarks in Seville, namely the Plaza de Espana and Maria-Lusia Park.

Plaza de España

The Plaza de Espana and the Maria-Lusia Park were a short walk from my apartment, and I passed through them nearly every day. Many times I met new people, Spanish couples young and old, horse-drawn carriage operators who took tourists for rides, and occasionally Gypsies offering a rose in exchange for good luck or a curse, depending whether or not I was willing to give up a few pesos.

The spectacular architecture of the Plaza de Espana has featured in many famous movies, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones (2002), and The Dictator (2012).

Plaza de Espana | 1998

North tower | Plaza de Espana

Horse drawn carriages | Plaza de Espana | Click to Andalucia.org

Vicente Traver fountain | Plaza de Espana | Click to Andalucia.org

Ceramic tiled benches and alcoves of the provinces | Click to spain.info

Tiled alcove featuring the province of Zaragoza | Click to spain.info

Maria Luisa Park | Parque de María Luisa

Maria-Lusia Park (Parque de María Luisa) is Seville's foremost green area, featuring Moorish-style gardens and architecture with fountains, monuments, pavilions, ponds, and statues.

What I remember most are well-dressed ladies and gentlemen out for sunset walks, young couples kissing on colorful tiled benches, and afternoon visits to the Museum of Arts and Traditions of Sevilla.

Parque de María Luisa

Parque de María Luisa

Springtime in the park

Museum of Arts and Traditions of Sevilla


Seville cultural events

When studying abroad in Seville during the Spring semester, week-long cultural highlights include the Seville Fair (La Feria de Abril) and Holy Week (Semana Santa).

Click on photos to enlarge.

Seville Fair | La Feria de Abril de Sevilla

Seville Fair | Spring 1998

Seville Fair | Spring 1998

Seville Fair | Spring 1998

Seville Fair | Spring 1998

Seville Fair | Spring 1998

Seville Fair | Spring 1998

Holy Week | Semana Santa

A trumpet signals the start of Semana Santa

A "Paso" in the street

The crowd at Plaza de San Francisco


National and international travels

Three-day weekends

Throughout the five months I lived in Seville, I made good use of my three-day weekends.

From Monday to Thursday, I attended all classes, and completed all assignments, but on Friday mornings, I woke to the Spanish sunrise, tidied up the apartment, and headed directly to the bus or train station.

I visited, photographed, and studied important cultural centers in central and southern Spain, such as Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, Marbella, Madrid, Segovia, and the Balearic island of Mallorca.

Cordoba | Roman Bridge

Granada | Alhambra

Ronda | Tajo de Ronda

Mallorca | Balearic Islands

San Lorenzo de El Escorial | El Escorial

Segovia | Alcazar

Tarifa | Baelo Claudia Roman Ruins

Trujillo | Francisco Pizarro statue

Long holiday breaks

On longer holiday breaks, I went on more adventurous trips, such as Lisbon and the Algarve region in Portugal for surfing, or across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangiers, Morocco. One particular trip, I rode the Marrakech Express and hired a guide in order to cross the Atlas Mountains, entering the Sahara Desert, and riding a camel east toward the Algerian border.

Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal | Surf break

Algarve region | Southern Portugal

Morocco

Tangier | Morocco

Water man | Marrakesh, Morocco

Jemaa el Fnaa Market | Marrakesh

Sahara Desert | Morocco

Sahara Desert | Morocco

Academic interests | Al-Andalus and Islamic-influenced Spain

711-1492

A topic of personal interest to me is Islamic-influenced Spain, sometimes referred to as Al-Andalus, a term recognizing the Muslim territories of the Iberian Peninsula. At its greatest extent during the 8th century, Islamic rulers governed most of Spain and Portugal.

During the 780 years (711-1492) of the Moors in Spain, Islamic territories waxed and waned depending on political tides, creating frontier areas where Christian and Islamic influences were in close contact, politically, culturally and economically. For example, a close look at place names around Andalusia reveals many towns with the name "de la frontera" added.

Giralda Bell Tower at the Seville Cathedral, originally designed as an Islamic minaret | Click to enlarge

Entrance to the Alhambra in Granada | a pinnacle of Islamic culture in Spain | Click to museum website

Beginning in 711, swift-moving Islamic armies from north Africa invaded Spain, and in less than a decade occupied nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula. A process of acculturation followed, and Spain developed, and flourished, into a hybrid civilization comprising Muslims, Christians, Jews, Gypsies, and other cultural influences.

Although conflicts certainly existed between the various cultural traditions and religions, they were, for the most part, mutually tolerated and therefore combined to form a new culture. As a result, Islamic-influenced Spain developed into one of the most sophisticated cultures that Europe had seen since the fall of the Roman Empire four hundred years earlier.

One of the more fascinating outcomes was the arrival of ancient Greek and Roman knowledge which had been preserved in Islamic libraries. While living, studying and traveling in Spain, I learned that ancient Greek philosophy, math, and science, which had long since been translated to Classical Arabic, was translated back into Latin, Spanish, and other European languages during the Moorish period. This knowledge had been lost in Europe because of the Christian habit during the Dark Ages of burning all books other than the Bible. It is ironic that after Christians had destroyed all the pre-Christian written history and wisdom of Europe, much of this knowledge arrived back in the continent through the Moorish influence in Spain.

Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) | 13th century Islamic watchtower on the Guadalquivir River in Seville | Click to museum website

This is to say that the great body of Greek knowledge, as well as ancient works from Persia, India, and China, essentially unavailable to the West for several centuries, became available once again. Notably, areas of knowledge and research, particularly math, architecture, and astronomy, which had been familiar to adepts in ancient Greek and Roman cultures, had been further developed by Islamic scholars, and subsequently, this powerful knowledge flowed into, and through, Spain, eventually reaching important cultural centers in France, England, Germany and crucially Florence, Italy, where these books helped to kickstart the artistic and scientific revolution that later became known as the Renaissance.

Great Mosque Cordoba | Click to Islamic Art website

The culture of Al-Andalus thus had a major impact on the shift of Western Europe out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

I was fortunate enough to study this topic at the International College of Seville, and to visit key sites with my professor, Oxford-educated Richard Bastin, who I nicknamed "Señor Bastino" due to his expertise in Spanish culture and history, although he was actually English. Our travels together included a visit to Toledo, where scholars at the Toledo School of Translators undertook the important work of translating the ancient texts into European languages in the twelfth and thirteen centuries.

Documentary | When the Moors Ruled in Europe

Online Resources

Thank you for visiting my Spain Learning Adventure page.

If you feel motivated to learn more about studying abroad in Spain or other Learning Adventures, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Juan (left) and Jose (right), friends at Seville's only surf shop "Surf Planet", showing off their new T-shirt design with Seville's unofficial motto "Mucho Arte"

Friends at Surf Planet - Surf Shop Seville, Spain - Steven Andrew Martin - Study Abroad Journal
Surfing Munich

Surfing Munich

Surfing the Eisbach River Wave in downtown Munich, Germany (Surfen an der Eisbach Welle München Deutschland)

The Eisbach River Wave (Eisbachwelle), Munich, Germany, is one of the best and most consistent city-center river surfing spots in the world.

Surfing the Eisbach River Wave in downtown Munich, Germany

A meter-tall standing wave is created by a man-made stone step in the Eisbach Channel, just before it flows into the Isar River in the English Garden Park (Englischer Garten) in downtown Munich.

Location of the Eisbach River Wave in Downtown Munich | Click to enlarge

Surfers began to ride the Eisbachwelle in the 1970s, and used submerged wooden planks to improve the height and shape of the wave.

German surfer riding the Eisbach River Wave

Following several minor accidents, the local authorities came up with a plan to destroy the Eisbachwelle, but local and international surfers responded with a public campaign and online petition to "save the wave".

As a result, the Eisbachwelle is now legally protected as a cultural resource, and surfing is officially permitted at the site.

June 29, 2019 | A good day at the Eisbach River Wave

A sign helpfully reminds visitors that "Due to the forceful current, the wave is suitable for skilled and experienced surfers only."

German surfers wait for a wave | Eisbach River wave

German surfer | Eisbach River Wave


Around Bavaria

A few photos from the spring of 2019

Traveling through Bavaria | Surfing Munich Learning Adventure

Neuschwanstein Castle | Commissioned by Bavarian King Ludwig II in 1869

Jantanee at Neuschwanstein | Bavaria, Germany

Around Munich

Marienplatz | Munich Germany

Springtime on Kaufinger walking street, Munich

Jantanee Martin at Marienplatz

Thank you for visiting our Surfing Munich Learning Adventure page.

We hope you enjoy the photos, videos, and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about surf tourism, other Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin, PhD Environmental Management

Thanks for visiting 'Surfing Munich' and a warm 'guten tag' from Nymphenburg Baroque Palace, western Munich

Surfing Thailand

Surfing Thailand

SURFING THAILAND | SURF SCIENCE AND THE ANDAMAN SEA

Steven A. Martin, Ph.D. Environmental Management

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies in Sociology and Anthropology

A Learning Adventure for Students of 814-113 Thai Geography and 805-282 Environmental Studies

Click on images and photos to enlarge.

The Andaman Sea

The Andaman Sea is a salad bowl of high-salinity water topped with waves of mixed types and sources, outlined by an unpredictable volcanic ridge, and characterized by mysteriously deep ocean upwellings and currents, internal waves, and a stealthy world-leader in cyclogenesis.

In this Learning Adventure, I investigate the Andaman Sea and surfing in Thailand, including bathymetry, tides, wave types and directions, and swell windows.

Bali's Tipi Jabrik | Surfing at Kata Beach, Phuket

Backstory

In 2006, after seeing the waves in Phuket while on holiday, I wondered if I might be able to live and work on the island.

Prior to visiting Phuket, I had been a post-graduate student in Taiwan, and it had been great; but how about studying in Phuket? After learning about the International MBA program in Hospitality and Tourism Management being offered at the Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus, I decided to apply. The courses started in April 2007, just in time for the surf season on the Andaman Coast.

I packed my bags – and surfboards.

One of 800 hotels on the resort island of Phuket

I soon realized that surf tourism was a new and growing industry in Phuket, and my thesis adviser agreed it was an excellent research topic. Besides, what surfer wouldn't feel great strapping their surfboards on the car and heading to the beach to conduct field research?

I had been a surf tourist in 30 countries and owned a surf school in Hawaii which catered to tourists from all over the world, including celebrities and astronauts from NASA.

Surf travel was in my blood.

Environmental concerns and the protection of surf sites had always been important to me, and my master's thesis progressed into a coastal resource assessment of Phuket surf beaches. I looked at all sorts of issues, including water pollution, marine debris, the tin mining industry, water safety, and much more.

Eventually, my work on the Andaman Coast led to a doctoral scholarship, and in the years following, I developed the Surf Resource Sustainability Index (SRSI), earning me a Ph.D. in Environmental Management.

If you feel motivated to learn more about these topics, please visit my Surf Tourism Research page.

Surfing waves on Thailand's Andaman Coast

The Southwest Monsoon

The Southwest Monsoon is the driving force behind the surf on Thailand's Andaman Coast. The month of May signals the onset of steady westerly/ southwesterly winds, occasionally gusty and accompanied by fast-moving squalls and heavy rain. However, gloomy skies and heavy downpours tend to pass quickly, replaced by pillowy convection-born cumulonimbus clouds, shimmering sunbeams, and consistent head-high surf.

The Southwest Monsoon tapers off during October, giving way to cooler northeasterly winds during November. During this period, lucky locals may experience a few days with off-shore wind pushing up the faces of clean, Indian Ocean groundswells (see sections below on wave types and swell windows).

The Andaman weather wheel, shown here, illustrates from the inner cycle outward: monsoon season, approximate average rainfall in millimeters, wind types and directions, and expected storm activity and skies.

Andaman Coast weather cycle | Steven Martin ©

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Southwest Monsoon. Onshore winds and waves with passing heavy showers | Thai Geography

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Northeast Monsoon, with light winds and calm seas | Thai Geography

Andaman Surf Meteorology

Surf on the Andaman coast comes from a wide-range of sources and directions, and various wave types are generated by particular sets of weather phenomena. This is to say that depending on how, when, and where waves are generated, those arriving at Thailand’s Andaman coast beaches differ significantly.

Windsea, windswell and groundswell

In this article, three types of waves are discussed in terms of swell period, referring mainly to wave interval, that is, the amount of time it takes for two consecutive wave crests to pass through a determined point. The definitions offered here are slightly adjusted to better understand what we actually see on Thailand's Andaman Coast. Exact definitions can be found across various surf forecasting websites.

  1. Windsea refers to waves breaking very close together, perhaps just 6 to 8 seconds apart.
  2. Windswell refers to mainly to short period swells averaging around 9-12 seconds apart.
  3. Groundswell mainly refers to longer period swells, averaging 14 seconds or more.

In the widest sense, waves are generated at different distances from the coast. Waves resulting from weather patterns occurring near the Andaman Coast generally create a windsea condition. Windsea refers to waves accompanied by the wind which generated them and may look like waves breaking one right after another, resulting in mixed wave heights, a common sight at Phuket Beaches on stormy days.

Once the windsea condition passes, and the wind dies down, a rideable windswell may remain for several hours or several days.

Typical windswell in Phuket during the Southwest Monsoon (May to October)

In contrast, groundswells generated by weather systems in the Indian Ocean may travel great distances, pass through the The Great Channel, between Banda Ache and Great Nicobar Island, and provide clean, long-period surfing waves.

If comparing the consistent, almost daily windswell arriving at Thai beaches during the Southwest monsoon, groundswells are characterized as more powerful, offering longer rides, and having more time between waves. While different wave types may be common knowledge among surfers, types of windswells and groundswells vary considerably in Thailand based on a number of factors.

For example, swells with a 15-second or more wave period, generated as far away as Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean, as compared to swells with a 10-second wave period generated south of Sri Lanka in the southern Bay of Bengal. Low pressure systems in the Bay of Bengal have potential to push large waves through The Great Channel or Ten Degree Channel (see maps below) with considerable force, creating big surf in Phuket, similar to what one might expect in Indonesia or Hawaii.

Worthy of note, The Great Channel is much wider, deeper, and open to Indian ocean wave activity compared to The Ten Degree Channel.

Typical groundswell in Phuket

The three most obvious sources of ocean swell activity and associated swell directions relative to the Andaman coast of Thailand are as follows:

  • Monsoonal wind flow which propagates southwesterly to westerly windsea and windswell.
  • Groundswell generated in the southern or central Indian Ocean which produces southwesterly swells.
  • Regional cyclonic activity, including tropical depressions, storms, and cyclones, which may propagate a variety of swell types and directions.

Andaman Surf Meteorology | Swell types | Steven Martin ©

Each type of weather phenomena and its associated swell type and direction create various surfing conditions on the Andaman Coast which may range in size and ‘surfability’ from one coastal area to another. Swell direction is highly significant given that the swell window for each province varies considerably.

For example, provinces north of Phuket are open to southerly and southwesterly swell directions, compared to provinces south of Phuket, which are mainly exposed to westerly swell directions or rarely occurring northerly swells resulting from regional cyclonic activity (see Andaman Coast Swell Windows, below).

Classification of Storms in Thai Waters

The classification of weather and large storms varies from country to country around the world. For example, a tropical storm in one country may be considered a tropical depression in another country. Consequently, communication and clarification regarding the exchange of data among various national weather bureaus is of the utmost importance, especially when issuing storm warnings and in terms of public safety awareness.

In Thai waters, the following criteria apply:

  • Tropical depression is categorized as a weather system which produces winds up to 59 km/hr
  • Tropical storm produces winds of 60-119 km/hr
  • Cyclone produces winds of over 119 km/hr

Surfers at Nai Harn Beach, Phuket

Andaman Coast Swell Windows

Primarily a factor of geography, Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands block or shadow the vast majority Indian Ocean swells from reaching Thailand’s Andaman Coast. Consequently, the surf along Thailand’s Andaman Coast is generally much smaller on a given day compared to the South-Western coasts of Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands, Java, Bali, etc., which are highly exposed to the Indian Ocean.

The news isn't all bad, a gap between Banda Aceh and Great Nicobar Island offer a ‘swell window’, an opening through which waves can pass through, such as between islands or around points of land.

In order for Indian Ocean swells to reach Phuket, they must pass through The Great Channel, a swell window limited from roughly 230 degrees west-southwest through 245 degrees west-southwest depending on a given swell direction. Although a narrow window, the Banda Aceh/Nicobar gap allows enough Indian Ocean surf though to provide year-round surprises for local surfers.

As in navigation, wind and wave directions for meteorology and swell directions follow the numbers of the compass (a 360° circle) where 0/360° is North, 90° is East, 180° is South, and 270° is West. Waves traveling from a particular source or direction are labeled as coming from that direction in terms of the compass relative to the point of arrival. This is to say that if Phuket is the arrival point, we can set the center of the compass over Phuket and measure the direction of the incoming swell (see map below).

Andaman Coast groundswell windows and wave refraction | Steven Martin ©

Thailand’s Andaman Coast occasionally receives big surf generated in the northern Indian Ocean and southern Bay of Bengal. Lucky days for surfers are those when the swell direction finds an open window enters the Andaman Sea at full-face value. Such was the case for the July 2008 Kalim Surfing Contest, which saw clean overhead waves on the day of the finals. The unusually big surf came from low pressure system not far from Sri Lanka.

2008 Phuket Surfing Contest

Ocean swells passing through The Great Channel or The Ten Degree Channel 'refract' or bend, thus changing direction upon entering the Andaman Sea and may reach coastal areas north and south of Phuket (see groundswell windows and wave refraction map).

The science of wave refraction also helps to explain why the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, generated on the opposite side of Sumatra from Phuket, was able to bend around Banda Aceh, the western tip of Sumatra, and strike the Malaysian Peninsula. As tsunamis travel at great ocean depths, speeds, and volumes, the rate of refraction is additively great.

Andaman Coast Swell Windows | Steven Martin ©

Andaman Coastal Bathymetry

Bathymetry, or seafloor topography, varies at different latitudes along Thailand’s Andaman Coast and this greatly affects wave speeds and heights. Waves approaching a particular coast from deep water travel faster and carry more energy and power than waves approaching over shallow water, such as when they pass over a continental shelf before reaching the shore.

Notably, the deepest water on Thailand’s Andaman Coast is found near Phuket; hence, Phuket generally has the most powerful waves regardless of the fact that provinces to the north may have a better swell window to the southern Indian Ocean.

Surf beaches and bathymetry | Phuket, Thailand | Steven Martin ©

All six of Thailand's Andaman provinces have a continental shelf. The shelf averages approximately 100 km wide in the north (Ranong Province), narrowing to 25 km in the middle (Phuket Province) and widening to about 130 km in the south (Satun Province).

Andaman coastal seafloor topography | Phang nga, Phuket, and Krabi Provinces | Steven Martin ©

Tides

Tides along Thailand’s Andaman Coast are semi-diurnal, meaning there are two high tides and two low tides daily, with spring heights of up to approximately 3.6 meters and neap tides down to approximately .6 meter.

Generally, the maximum tidal amplitude, or the magnitude of change in an oscillating tidal variable, in Phuket is approximately 3 meters; however in some areas of the Andaman Sea, amplitudes can reach as much as 7 meters.

Low tide at Cape Coral | Andaman Coast, Thailand

The few reef breaks along the Andaman Coast are highly ‘tide dependent’ in terms of surfing. For example, these areas may become exposed reefs on low tide and have rideable waves on medium to high tides.

Conversely, waves at many beach breaks become too thick and slow on high tides, and are often better surfed on incoming or medium tides.

Exceptions to the rules occur when the waves are big – when indeed, anything goes!

Mysterious Andaman Sea

Seafloor topography

The average depth the Andaman Sea is approximately 1,000 meters (3,200 ft), while the western and central areas are particularly deep at 900 to 3,000 meters (3,000–10,000 ft). The northern parts are much shallower due to the silt deposited by the Irrawaddy River, as are the coastal areas of Myanmar and Thailand due the continental shelf.

Salinity

At an average salinity of 32 parts per thousand, the Andaman Sea is especially salty. Due to the fresh water entering the sea from the Irrawaddy River in the extreme north of the sea, slightly higher salinity occurs in southern areas near Thailand. The influx of cool, fresh water is a contributing factor to the development of low pressure systems and cyclones in the region (see cyclogenesis below).

Geology

Along with the Nicobar island chain, The Andaman Islands form a natural back-arc basin which defines the Andaman Sea. The western area of the sea is dynamic with seismic activity along a zig-zag north-south line where the seabed demarks the boundary between the Burma plate and the Sunda Plate.

As a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the sea floor was uplifted by several meters in some areas. This area is home to the only active volcano connected with the Indian subcontinent.

Deep sea currents

Deep sea currents in the Andaman change considerably with the monsoon seasons from south-easterly and easterly during winter months (December to March), and south-westerly and westerly during summer months (June to September). The changes in currents affect sea temperatures and salinity in various parts of the sea.

Internal waves

Peculiar to the Andaman Sea is the occurrence of ‘internal waves’, which are essentially underwater waves which can travel across the sea and sometimes surface to form the mysterious ripples recorded by early seafarers in the region. Caused by the mixing of different water temperatures and densities in relation with deep-sea currents, internal waves are comparable to oil and vinegar in a jar: when lightly shaken, a sub-surface wave forms where the different fluid densities meet.

Cyclogenesis

Cyclogenesis is the birth of large spinning storms, a low-pressure weather phenomenon particularly dynamic to the Andaman Sea. (Kumar et al, 2008) Although cyclones are normally associated with a weather phenomena related to the equator, the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea are potentially energetic for the development of strong cyclonic storms and account for about seven percent of the total number of cyclones in the world annually (Mohanty et al., 1994).

In teaching Thai Geography for nearly a decade, I find that this topic, that is, giant storms often generated just northwest of Thailand's Andaman Coast, is rarely ever mentioned, save for my classroom discussions. With some of the largest and most destructive storms in the world are generated near Phuket, why aren't Phuketians aware?

In my experience, the reason is that these weather systems are not on most citizen's radar is that as they form, they actually draw the clouds and moisture away from Phuket, pulling them anti-clockwise into the center of the storm. Thus, as Andaman cyclones form, Phuket tends to have spectacularly clear weather. While this is certainly not always the case, according to historical records dating back to 1000 AD, not a single Andaman-born cyclone has moved towards Phuket. Rather these storms characteristically track in a west-northwesterly direction toward the Andaman Islands, making landfall in India, Bangladesh or Myanmar.

Exemptions to the rule include Pacific-born hurricanes that cross the Malaysian Peninsula and enter the Andaman Sea, such as Harriet in 1962, the deadliest tropical cyclone in Thai history, responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths.

Worthy of mention, cyclones born in the Andaman Sea have long lifespans and are among the most devastating in history (Pentakota et al., 2018). For example, Cyclone Nagris which hit Myanmar on May 2, 2008.

Thai surfers – watch for rare, yet epic, cyclone-generated north-westerly swells hitting southerly provinces either early or late in the surf season!

Thank you for visiting my Surfing Thailand page.

I hope you enjoy my photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to travel to the Thailand, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Online resources by author

If you're interested to learn more about my MA or PhD theses, or other academic publications, please visit my surf tourism research page.

Typical small, fun surfing conditions in Phuket

Monsoon Boogie Phuket | June 1, 2022

Tibet

Tibet

QOMOLANGMA | SNOW GODDESS OF MOUNT EVEREST, TIBET

This is the story of the most spectacular photo I have ever taken.

In the summer of 2000, I made an agreement with the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) to conduct independent research in Tibet. I proposed to travel overland from Lhasa to Kathmandu, Nepal.

My Liberal Studies Adviser, Prof. John Cheng, agreed, providing I kept a detailed photo journal of my travels.

Ancient Buddhist rock art near Lhasa | 1066 AD | Click to enlarge

Lhasa, Tibet, and the journey ahead

After a month-long study abroad program with the University of Hawaii, ending in Chengdu, southwestern China, I set out with two students, to Lhasa, Tibet.

Potala Palace, former residence of the Dali Lama | Lhasa, Tibet

I planned to travel southwest from Lhasa, by Toyota Land Cruiser, across the fertile valleys of Xigazê and Gyantse. These ancient cultural and religious centers are the gateway to the Tingri Plain, a 4,500 meter-high basin located north of Mount Everest.

Tibetan village | En route to Xigazê | Tibet

The trip began inauspiciously. As mandated by the Chinese visa restrictions in Beijing, I had booked through the China International Travel Service, CITS, for the hire of a Toyota Land Cruiser and local driver for two weeks, as well as a national guide and an international guide – not a cheap excursion by any means. I had paid in advance for what I hoped would be a relatively new model vehicle to get us over the mountains and difficult terrain ahead. What actually appeared outside the CITS office in Lhasa that morning was an ancient, battered truck with bald tires, stinking of fuel from what was clearly a leaking tank. The less said about the social skills of the Chinese driver, the better.

Within ten minutes of sitting in the fume-filled truck, I was physically sick. I made the decision that there was no way I was going to spend two weeks like this, and insisted that the driver turn around and head back to the CITS.

Smiling, but unyielding, I explained quietly and politely to a series of CITS officials that the truck was unsafe, and unlikely to get us to Everest.

After several hours of this, I was very relieved to see the arrival of Mr Quan, a distinguished-looking driver in a beautiful late-model Toyota Land Cruiser. We were back on the road.

Getting petrol in the new Toyota Land Cruiser at Lhasa before the trip to Mount Everest

And so it came to pass that Mr Quan, myself, my two students Kawika and Aaron, our national guide, Mr. Wu, and our international guide, Nancy Lan, set off for Everest.

Over the next few days, I learned that Mr. Quan was indeed a driver of quality, who had previously served many dignitaries on past tours, including the Kennedy family from the United States and other international government officials.

Mr. Quan (right) and Tibetan villagers at the window of our Toyota Land Cruiser

Valleys, villages, and mountain passes

With Mr. Quan at the wheel, we crossed though expansive valleys with fields of yellow rapeseed flowers and visited small traditional Tibetan villages. We cautiously drove up steep, dangerous switchback roads to high-mountain passes, some at 16,000 feet or more.

Tibetan farmer standing in a field of green barley on the way to Xigazê

At each pass, we stopped to check the vehicle, especially the brakes, before descending to the next valley. I followed local tradition by tying prayer flags to shrines to thank the spirits for our safe passage, and send peaceful mantras in the wind.

Prayer flags at a mountain pass on the way to Xigazê

Below, a few photos taken along the way (posted in low-res format only).

The open road - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Chinese trucks passing by on the open road

Rapeseed - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Rapeseed, locally called youcai zi (油菜籽)

Tibetan village visit - Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Tibetan village visit

Tibetan woman - Steven Andrew Martin - Tibet Photo Journal

Tibetan village visit

Prayer stones - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Prayer stones at the village

Mountain stream - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Crossing a mountain stream on the Tingri Plain

mountain barley - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Fields of mountain barley in a picturesque valley

International Chinese tour guide Tibet - Photo journal - Dr Steven A Martin

International guide, Nancy Lan

Temple door - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Temple door with Buddha images

Tibeten Books - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Tibetan Buddhist scriptures

Mount Everest and the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve

Entering Qomolangma National Nature Preserve, we headed to the Rongbuck Monastery to photograph the north face of Mount Everest. Our Land Cruiser powered up the last mountain pass of the trip, through sunny skies and cold winds, and as occasional gaps appeared in the clouds, we caught distant glimpses of Everest across the most impressively massive valley I ever saw. (See my photo top of this page).

Qomolangma National Nature Reserve - Dr Steven Andrew Martin - Mount Everest National Preserve

Qomolangma National Nature Preserve

Supply truck - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Supply truck on the Tingi Plain

Sheep crossing the Rongbuck Stream - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Sheep crossing the Rongbuck Stream

Everest from the Rongbuk Monastery - Steven Andrew Martin Journal

Everest from the Rongbuk Monastery

Rongbuck glacial valley - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Rongbuck glacial valley at the foot of Everest

Mount Everest black and hhite - Tibet Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Mount Everest with black and white film

About this photo | Mount Everest

South from the Rongbuck Monastery, across a glacial valley of naturally-crushed grey rock, I hiked to nearly 18,000 feet and stood at the foot of Everest. The north face of the mountain towered nearly 10,000 feet above.

The air was thin and the wind reddened my skin. I set up the camera and took pictures, in color slides and black and white prints, but Everest had a mind of its own.

As quickly as the summit appeared through the rapidly moving clouds, it was gone from sight. I had seen just enough to know it was there; but for several hours, until nearly dark, I saw only grey clouds breaking across the summit.

It was getting dark and dangerously late to return to camp, and I scrabbled down the glacier feeling somewhat defeated, reflecting on the stories I'd read of climbers who spent years planning and training, only to fail in their bid for the summit.

The truck started, and we drove away in the darkness with the mountain at our back. As I was reaching for something behind me, I caught from the corner of my eye the sight of a sudden change of wind. In seconds, the east wind whipped away the covering clouds from the mountain, revealing the full magnificence of Everest in crystal clarity.

Qomolangma, the legendary goddess of the mountain, was miraculously lifting her veil.

"Stop!" I told Mr. Quan. "Wait!"

I gathered my gear and launched out of the truck, fumbling to get a shot before the surreal moment was gone.

I knew it was the perfect photo of the top of the world.

Mount Everest from the Rongbuk Glacier | June 2000 | Click to enlarge

Thank you for visiting my Tibet Learning Adventure Page.

I hope you enjoy my photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to travel to Tibet, or would like to arrange a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Thai Geography

Thai Geography

THAI GEOGRAPHY

ภูมิศาสตร์ ประเทศไทย

Course description

Geographical characteristics in each region of Thailand as well as the borders of neighboring countries; Regional resources; Geographic factors which cause local change, including careers, permanent settlements and important tourist destinations; Fieldwork is part of the course.

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Southwest Monsoon. Onshore winds and waves with passing heavy showers | Thai Geography

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Northeast Monsoon, with light winds and calm seas | Thai Geography

Course objectives

Students are expected to understand and be able to express their own ideas in the following areas:

  1. The location, size and borders of Thailand.
  2. Physical and human resources of Thailand.
  3. Characteristics of Thailand in a regional context.
  4. Various map projections and thematic maps of Thailand.
  5. Important domestic and international tourist attractions in Thailand.
  6. Geographic terms and concepts in the Thai context, including location, space, and area.
  7. Geographical factors causing local change, including occupations, settlements, and migration.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Martin, S. A., & Ritchie, R. J. (2020). Sourcing Thai geography literature for ASEAN and international education. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 41(1) 61–85.

Abstract: This study surveys the available English-language literature and learning resources covering the field of Thai geography, and provides historical review of Thai geography education and an inventory of relevant, accessible materials for ASEAN and international undergraduate students, educators and researchers. We note that the discipline and context of Thai geography has shifted toward new technologies, particularly geographic information systems (GIS), and this has left a void in practical and accessible text for high school and undergraduate students in gaining broad and traditional knowledge of the field. Our study finds that the accessibility of introductory English-language texts on Thai geography is limited, and that existing texts appear mainly in the grey literature or widely dispersed across various disciplines of study. The paper provides a platform to help future researchers and to facilitate future production of English-language textbooks and other study materials in the field of Thai geography.

2018 | Conference Presentation

Exploring Ko Yao Noi | Thai Tourism Geography 2018


INTRODUCTORY PRESENTATIONS AND PHOTO ALBUMS

PDFs and Photos for Viewing and Downloading

  • A Case for Teaching Thai Geography in English – 2mb pdf
  • Intro to Karst Topography and the Andaman Coast, Thailand – 18mb pdf
  • Intro to Map Projections – 6mb pdf
  • Intro to Map Types and Themes (Emphasis on Thailand) – 8mb pdf
  • Koh Yao Noi, Phang Nga – Google Photos
  • Koh Yao Yai, Phang Nga – Google Photos
  • Nai Yang Beach, Phuket (Field Trip) – 17mb pdf
  • Phuket Aquarium – Google Photos
  • Site Visit in Ubon Ratchathani (Sao Chaliang) – 5mb pdf
  • Site Visits in Ubon Ratchathani (Emerald Triangle) – 11mb pdf
  • Surf Resource Sustainability (Phuket, Thailand) – 4mb pdf
  • Trash Talking (Marine Debris on the Andaman Coast) – 400kb pdf

Exploring Ko Yao Yai | Thai Tourism Geography 2018


THE SIX REGIONS OF THAILAND

The 76 Provinces of Thailand | Kids Learning Tube

REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY OF THAILAND | 76 PROVINCES + Bangkok Special Administrative Zone | Dr. Steven A. Martin © | Click to Thai Regions Page

1. NORTHERN Thailand | Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai | Highest peak in Thailand, at 2,565 m (8,415 ft)

2. NORTHEASTERN Thailand | Haew Narok Waterfall, Nakhon Ratchasima | Khao Yai National Park

3. CENTRAL Thailand | Phra Prang Sam Yot, Lopburi | Khmer historical site

4. EASTERN Thailand | Mu Ko Chang National Park | Trat

5. WESTERN Thailand | Phra Nakhon Khiri Temple | Petchaburi

6. SOUTHERN Thailand | Phi Phi Island, Krabi


HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY THE BAN CHIANG ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE AND MUSEUM

We visited this site on July 8, 2022

In the photos below, note the '3 periods' of Ban Chiang archaeological research on interpretation signage (as defined by American archaeologist Joyce White).

Some items on display are from other areas of Thailand and serve to broaden our thinking of Ban Chiang as a single location to include historical geography and cultural markers from across the region.

Ban Chiang Archaeological Museum | July 8, 2022

Artifacts of the Middle Period (c. 3000-2300 BP)

Ban Chiang World Heritage Site | NHK

According to UNESCO (2018), the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is considered the "Most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South-East Asia. It marks an important stage in human cultural, social and technological evolution. The site presents the earliest evidence of farming in the region and of the manufacture and use of metals."

Ban Chiang is located in Udon Thani Province in northeast Thailand, within the watershed of the Mekong River, and was continuously occupied from 1495 BC until c. 900 BC, placing it among the earliest scientifically-dated prehistoric farming and habitation sites in Southeast Asia. Research indicates that wet rice agriculture, associated technological complex of domesticated farm animals, ceramic manufacture, and bronze tool-making technology, represent a well-defined cultural complex distinctive from anything that preceded it.

Through it, we can "Trace the spread and development of prehistoric society and its development into the settled agricultural civilizations which came to characterize the region throughout history which still continue up to the present day" (UNESCO – Ban Chiang Archaeological Site, 2018).


STUDENT RESOURCES

Witherick, Ross, & Small. (2001). A modern dictionary of Geography. London: Arnold. [9mb pdf]

Thailand Base Maps

Based maps for Thai Geography student projects in jpeg and pdf formats:

Thai Geography 2012 Class Photo | Emerald Pool (Sra Morakot), Krabi, Thailand


Winichakul, T. (1997). Siam mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Thongchai Winichakul's 1997 book, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation (with English and Thai versions), explores the Siamese understanding of territory and state before the delineation of geographic boundaries in the modern sense. Winichakul notes that as a Western discipline, modern geography was originally embraced by King Mongkut (1804-1868), and the field of study provided impetus to the overall educational reform process in Thailand.

Winichakul (1997) Siam Mapped


Kermel-Torres, D. (2004). Atlas of Thailand: Spatial structures and development. Paris: IRD Editions.

Atlas of Thailand, Spatial structures and Development, is a comprehensive English language resource featuring spatial maps. Scans provided below are intended for Thai Geography students and academic purposes only.


Aiemchareon, W. Phurahong, S., & Chuaywong, S. (2010). Thailand atlas. Bangkok: Aksorncharoentat.

Thailand Atlas is an introductory Thai language resource for students of Thai Geography. Scans provided below are intended for students and academic purposes only.


GMS – Greater Mekong Subregion

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program (greatermekong.org) supports a variety of development projects, including the production of maps and other geographic information in the six nations that share the Mekong River. The high-resolution maps provided below are intended for students and academic purposes only.


ICEM – International Centre for Environmental Management

Established in 1999, International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM), is an independent technical service centre that assists government, private sector and communities to enact policies for sustainable development. The organization specializes in biodiversity conservation, climate change, water resources management, strategic environmental assessment, and environmental and social economics. The maps provided below are intended for Thai Geography students and academic purposes only.

Relevant Thailand country maps – Archived from 2000 (low res only)


United States University Websites/ Projects


International Organizations

  • BOBLME – Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project
  • GMS – Greater Mekong Subregion
  • ICEM – International Centre for Environmental Management – Thailand
  • IUCN – The International Union for Conservation of Nature – Thailand
  • MRC – Mekong River Commission for Sustainable Development
  • UNESCO – The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture – Thailand
  • US-Aid – United States Agency for International Development – Thailand
  • WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature – Thailand

Governmental Departments and Organizations under the Thai Ministries (in Thai)

Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

Ministry of Information and Communication Technology

Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives

Ministry of Tourism and Sports

Ministry of Science and Technology


English Summaries of Thai Literature on the Geography of Thailand

Aiemchareon, W. & Aiemnor, A. (2008). Geography. Bangkok: Aksornchareontat. [วิโรจน์ เอี่ยมเจริญ และ อภิสิทธ์ เอี่ยมหน่อ. (2551). ภูมิศาสตร์. กรุงเทพมหานคร: อักษรเจริญทัศน์].

  • Aiemchareon and Aiemnor (2008) published Geography, an overview of Asian geography commonly used in first and second year Thai high school education and includes a chapter identifying six key areas in Thai geography: economics, society and culture, population, physical geography, interaction and environment, and the preservation of natural resources.

Aiemchareon, W. Phurahong, S., & Chuaywong, S. (2010). Thailand atlas. Bangkok: Aksorncharoentat. [วิโรจน์ เอี่ยมเจริญ และคณะ. (2553). ไทยแลนด์ แอตลาส (พิมพ์ครั้งที่ 5). กรุงเทพมหานคร: อักษรเจริญทัศน์].

  • Aiemchareon et al. (2010) provide an illustrated geography in terms of an atlas with images and maps which illustrate and overview physical and human features and resources of the country, including hydrologic, agricultural, mineral, and transportation. The book includes a map-based historical geography of the Kingdom and discussion on each of Thailand’s provinces. At the time of writing, Thailand has 77 provinces (76 provinces and Bangkok representing a special administrative area structured as a province).

Boonchai, S. (2006). Thai geography. Bangkok: Odeon store. [สุภาพ บุญไชย. (2549). ภูมิศาสตร์ประเทศไทย (พิมพ์ครั้งที่ 2). กรุงเทพมหานคร: โอเดียนสโตร์.]

  • Boonchai (2006) provides an overview of the study of geography in Thai, aimed mainly at secondary school students. The research includes an overview of Thailand’s physical regional geography. Of particular interest, the book identifies Thai aquifers and references the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) website and other academic resources.

Thai Geography Publications by Course Instructor

Thank you for visiting my Thai Geography course page.

If you feel motivated to know more about Thai geography, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Sam Pun Boak (3,000 Holes) along the Mekong River | Geographic wonder in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand


NEW PHUKET AQUARIA | Dr Steven A Martin | Thai Geography | University Filmworks | พิพิธภัณฑ์สัตว์น้ำ | ภูเก็ต

When Phuket "Aquaria" opened in August, 2019, and we were among the first to visit and make this short video for our Thai Geography students. The new aquarium, located in the basement of Central Phuket Floresta, is the largest in Thailand, and features fresh and saltwater fish and turtles, otters, sharks, giant groupers, penguins, stingrays, jellyfish, lizards, insects, and snakes.  พิพิธภัณฑ์สัตว์น้ำที่ใหญ่ที่สุดในประเทศไทย | เซ็นทรัลฟลอเรสต้า

Phuket Aquaria | New 3:33 Video | พิพิธภัณฑ์สัตว์น้ำ | ภูเก็ต