Jon Wyatt Photography - Fault Line project text
On the wall is a bathymetric map – a map of the topography of a section of the Pacific Ocean floor 2,500 miles east of Australia. Intricate black wrinkles spread across the map denoting the contours and pressure ridges of the ocean landscape. At a depth of 11 miles those contours coalesce to form a thick, dark crease across the map. At this spot the Pacific tectonic plate dives below the Australian plate at an average of 10 inches per year – by far the fastest plate movement on the planet.
In 2009, in a massive fault rupture, the plates moved 22 feet relative to each other for a distance of 155 miles. The resulting wave was 55 feet high when it hit the nearest coastline - the island of Samoa, 100 miles to the north. It killed 189 people, destroyed 20 villages and left 3000 homeless.
The visitor to present-day Samoa is immediately confronted by swathes of vegetation that rise, several storeys high, from the roadsides. Comprising one single species - Merremia Peltata – this fast-growing invasive vine with broad, waxy leaves has smothered and killed more than 60% of Samoa's native forest. Engulfing everything in its path, the contours of the rising carpet of vines eerily emulate the topography of the fault line on the seafloor map. The vines surge over the landscape in the shape of a vast breaking wave, an inundation of vegetation and a striking echo of the tsunami.
The relief map of the Pacific seafloor is shown as part of the project and inspired the final look of the photographs. Generated from raw geographical survey data, similar relief shading techniques have been applied to the RGB values of the photographs. The resulting ‘contour maps’ visually blend the topography of the ruptured fault line with the ‘tsunami’ of vegetation.