Daily Journal

Day 5 | April 15, 2004

Interview with Joe Kaipat on the RV Wecoma

Joe Kaipat

Joe Kaipat

What is your job?
I am a seismic technician at the EMO [Emergency Management Office] in Saipan. I monitor emergency situations like volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and any other natural disasters. We set up and maintain seismic equipment and monitor the information from them.

What volcanoes do you monitor?
We have seismic stations working on Anatahan and Sarigan. We also have seismometers on Alamagan, Pagan and Agrigan but they aren't working because a typhoon in 2000 broke them. We haven't been able to fix them because of lack of government funding.

Why did you decide to monitor volcanoes?
I grew up on Pagan. On May 15 1981, when I was thirteen years old, Mount Pagan erupted. There was no seismic equipment or monitoring for Pagan at the time, so we had no warning. So I decided to learn more about volcanoes and earthquakes in case the government allowed us to resettle Pagan. Then I can monitor the volcano to keep the situation safe.

What was the Pagan eruption like?
Well, at the time about 80 people lived on the island. Three days before the eruption we started feeling a lot of earthquakes. With my present knowledge I would say they were up to 7.0 magnitude earthquakes. In the early morning before the eruption the earthquakes got even stronger. I heard a loud hissing sound, like when you let air out a tire, and saw black smoke coming out of the volcano, and then it exploded.



How did you learn to monitor volcanoes?
I learned mainly from experience at the EMO. I have worked there for 10 years and I'm one of the only people who has been to all the Mariana volcanoes. I studied at University of Hawaii in Hilo with CSAV [Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes] to learn more about volcanoes.

How do the Islanders cope with living on active volcanoes?
We are living with fear! We just have to move when the volcano erupts. Wouldn't you be scared to live on a volcano without monitoring devices? [Maarten: Yes!] Before the Pagan eruption I wasn't scared of volcanoes, but when I saw the Pagan eruption I was scared by the power of volcanoes. But I also wanted to learn more about them.

Would you go back to live on Pagan?
Only if we had seismic equipment... that WORKED!!