Tsunami Memorial in the Darwin Centre Courtyard

Open from 6 July 2011

A memorial to the UK victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was officially opened to the public in the Natural History Museum's Darwin Centre Courtyard on 6 July 2011.

The 3.7metre3 granite Indian Ocean Tsunami Memorial remembers the lives of 155 British citizens who lost their lives in the Tsunami's devastation on 26 December 2004.

'It is fitting that the Natural History Museum is home to this impressive new Memorial. An important part of our mission is to make sense of the natural world and I hope this Memorial will not only bring comfort to those who lost loved ones in the Tsunami, but also be a reminder to us all of the powerful and sometimes destructive force of nature.'

Dr Michael Dixon - Director of the Natural History Museum

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was one of the worst natural disasters in living memory. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and the impact of the devastation was felt across the world. 

Names remembered

The Tsunami Memorial erected in the Museum's Darwin Centre Courtyard remembers these 155 British people who perished in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami:

June Abeyratna • Lincoln Abraham • Robert Adamson • John Andrews • Tracy Andrews • Trish Anthony • Simon Atlee • Valerie Awcock • Julian Ayer • Ross Baker • Kevin Barnett • Sofia Barona • Leonard Barratt • Catherine Mullan • Robert Bell • Sarah Bent • Michael Bowen • Teresa Bowen • Nicolas Brewster • Christina Bülow • Kevin Brickel • Chung Choi • Isis Choi • Jon Choi • Paul Clarke • Alice Claypoole • Melanie Clough • Leanne Cox • Anthony Crossman • Yvette Dreher • Joan Elias • Carole Fairbairn • Colin Fairbairn • Thomas Fairbairn • Samantha Archer Fayet • Ruby Rose Fayet • Roy Fitzsimmons • Susan Ford • Terence Ford • Kevin Forkan • Sandra Forkan • Tracy Fourès • Christian Fourès • Alexander Fourès • Dinah Fryer • Deborah Garlick • Heather Gill • Ilse Gotthiener • Iain Haggart • Carol Hall • Michael Hall • Roger Hankinson • Peter Harrison • Claire Hickman • David Hickman • Yolanda Ho • Annie Hofton • John Hofton • Audrey Holland • Jane Holland • Lucy Holland • John Hoy • Robert Hoy • David Hoy • Kate Hoy • Jonathan Hughes • James Hurren • Clare Jackson • Rebecca Johnston • Lisa Jones • Charlotte Jones • Connor Keightley • Susan Kennedy • Robert Kennedy • Chi Kwan • Alan Lai • Cynthia Lam • Veronica Lam • Kin Lam • Marco Lam • Justin Ledingham • Eileen Lee • Dominic Stephenson • Keith Lester • Amanda Britton • Adrian Lester • Michele Leung • Sai Leung • John Levett • Mary-Pat Levett • Nikhil Lissenburgh • Vikram Lissenburgh • Stephen Lissenburgh • Robert Little • Barry Lloyd-Jones • Michael Long • Chi Lo • Yam Lo • Amanda Lowe • Colleen Macdonald • Sally Macgill • Alice Macgill • Nicholas Mackenzie-Charrington • Stephen Magson • Lisa May • Kevin McCarthy • Matthew McComish • Christopher McGlynn • Carmela McGowan • Millie McGowan • Tia McGowan • Barbara McTaggart • Andrew McLeish • Natalie McLeish • Nova Mills • Loretta Morin • Robin Needham • Philip Nicholas • David Page • Taylor Howard • Mason Howard • Isabella Peatfield • Hannah Perry • Luke Puddy • Hannah Pyatt • Pauline Pyke • Rachel Quinn • Peter Rage • Pippa Rea • Holly Riddle • Parvin Rieu • Robert Rowbottom • Michael Scott • Stuart Shields • Kithmini Silva • Piers Simon • Charlie Smith-O’Reilly • Jennifer Solomons • Craig Stanley • Simon Stannard • Jeremy Stephens • Steve Stubbs • Joyce Sunderland • Seán Sweetman • Hong Tan • Sharleen Tan • Barry Tims
 • Michael Trickett • David Watson • Benjamin Watts • Ian Webster • Peter Weston • Robert Whymant • Louise Willgrass • Jane Williams

About the Tsunami

The Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake on 26 December 2004 was the largest globally for 40 years and the third largest since 1900. 

The resulting uplift of the sea floor by several metres caused the most destructive tsunami in recorded history that killed reportedly 227, 898 people and displaced 1.7 million others in 14 countries around the Indian Ocean.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami first reached land 15 minutes after the earthquake and was experienced up to 7 hours later in Somalia, eastern Africa.

The largest death toll was in Indonesia where it is estimated around 170,000 people died. The Sumatran city of Banda Aceh was the worst hit area when the first of a sequence of waves arrived approximately 22 minutes after the initial earthquake. 

In Sri Lanka, nearly 2,000km from the earthquake source, over 35,000 died making it the country’s greatest natural disaster. Even in South Africa, 8,000km from the source several deaths were reported.

Up to a third of the victims have been reported as children and in some areas 4 times as many women as men were killed. About 1% of the casualties were tourists, mainly from northern Europe. The majority of these occurred in the holiday resorts in Thailand.

How the Tsunami appeared to people around the Indian Ocean would have depended where they were.

A tsunami is not a movement of water as such, it is the transmission of a huge pulse of energy through the water, rather like a wave that can be sent down a rope by shaking it at one end. Someone on a ship in the open ocean would probably have experienced little or no effect from the passing Tsunami, because in the open ocean, a tsunami is only about 1m high. Satellite observations 2 hours after the earthquake found the wave height in open water to be 60cm. 

Once the Tsunami entered shallowing waters near the shore, it would have been witnessed as its energy was converted into a steep surge of water. In Banda Aceh it reached 24m to 30m in height.

In some places the wave trough arrived first, called a negative wave, causing the sea to retreat. People who recognised this as a warning of a tsunami may have been able to escape. For others, it may have been something intriguing to be investigated. Elsewhere the wave crest arrived first, called a positive wave, giving little or no warning of the Tsunami.

It is not always the first wave that is the largest and most destructive. Following waves can be more powerful. In Sri Lanka the second wave was the deadliest, in parts of Thailand it was the third. 

Some areas, for example southwest India, might have been expected to be ‘sheltered’ by land directly in the path of the Tsunami. However, these areas were also affected because the wave moved around the land.

Before 2004, the Indian Ocean had suffered few tsunamis in historical times, the last major one being in 1833 which was focused on Sumatra but had little effect elsewhere.

In contrast to the Pacific, where tsunami damage is more frequent, no warning system was in place when the Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake struck. The Tsunami was detected in the Pacific but there was no way of contacting the relevant areas to warn people in time to evacuate. 

It is reported that the indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands moved to high ground and avoided casualties. Their oral tradition associates earthquakes with large movements of water and so once they felt the earthquake, they managed to move out of the area in time.

A unified warning system is planned for the Indian Ocean area. However as of July 2010, this is not yet in place.

Tsunami Memorial opening

Prince Charles lays wreath at Tsunami Memorial opening

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales lays a wreath at the Tsunami Memorial opening on 6 July.

A memorial to the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was officially opened to the public on 6 July 2011. The ceremony was attended by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall and survivors, family and friends of the victims of the Tsunami.

The Memorial is the culmination of years of work by Tsunami Support UK (TSUK) and was made possible thanks to a grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Memorial was designed by architectural studio Carmody Groarke.

Michael Holland, Chairman of the Tsunami Memorial Project Board said: 'This huge, singular geographical fragment will create a powerful reminder for generations to come of this momentous event in the Earth’s natural history. Its purpose is to stop people forgetting. Within this new public space, the Memorial also offers a place for more quiet contemplation.

'We are immensely grateful to the DCMS for funding the memorial and to the Natural History Museum for making space available in its grounds – we can think of no better place to remember the lives of the UK family members and the over 225,000 others who perished in the Tsunami.'