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The two volumes of Arthur Wichmann’s Die Erdbeben Des Indischen Archipels [The Earthquakes of the Indian Archipelago] (1918 and 1922) document 61 regional earthquakes and 36 tsunamis between 1538 and 1877 in the Indonesian region. The largest and best documented are the events of 1770 and 1859 in the Molucca Sea region, of 1629, 1774 and 1852 in the Banda Sea region, the 1820 event in Makassar, the 1857 event in Dili, Timor, the 1815 event in Bali and Lombok, the events of 1699, 1771, 1780, 1815, 1848 and 1852 in Java, and the events of 1797, 1818, 1833 and 1861 in Sumatra. Most of these events caused damage over a broad region, and are associated with years of temporal and spatial clustering of earthquakes. The earthquakes left many cities in ‘rubble heaps’. Some events spawned tsunamis with run-up heights >15 m that swept many coastal villages away.

2004 marked the recurrence of some of these events in western Indonesia. However, there has not been a major shallow earthquake (M ≥ 8) in Java and eastern Indonesia for the past 160 years. During this time of relative quiescence, enough tectonic strain energy has accumulated across several active faults to cause major earthquake and tsunami events, such as those documented in the historical records presented here. The disaster potential of these events is much greater now than in the past due to exponential growth in population and urbanization in areas destroyed by past events.

Supplementary material: Translation of the catalogues into English, scanned PDFs of the original catalogues and geographical locations of most place names found in the catalogue (as a KMZ file) are available at

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