First visit to Malaysia

Earlier this month I went on my first visit to Malaysia as part of the British Council funded Institutional links project between the University of Aberdeen and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). As well as meeting collaborators for the first time, the trip provided me with an introduction to Malaysia in general, and Sabah in particular.

The first couple of days of the trip were spent in Kuala Lumpur. There I went to the Malaysian Metrological Department (MetMalaysia) to visit Mr Saw Bun Liong, the director of the Weather and Geophysics Technical Division. This Division plays many roles including the maintenance of the Malaysian seismic network and seismic and tsunami hazard monitoring. Following the Magnitude 6 earthquake in Sabah in June 2015 they will be deploying several new seismic stations in the region next year. During my visit we discussed how we could use the seismic data they are collecting in our project, and I had the chance to visit where they do their seismic monitoring.

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Seismic monitoring at MetMalaysia

From Kuala Lumpur I flew across the South China Sea to Borneo to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. The UMS campus is located just outside of Kota Kinabalu on a huge site, complete with its own beach and bit of rainforest! At UMS I met with Prof. Felix Tongkul, our collaborator at UMS from the Geology department and Natural Disaster Research Centre. Together with Felix’s graduate students we discussed plans for the project and how our parts of it (ours using seismic data and theirs looking at fault distribution) will complement each other.

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A river near Kundasang that had been in flood after the 2015 earthquake
Landslide on Mt Kinabalu
Landslide on Mt Kinabalu

At the weekend Felix and his daughter Junia very generously took me up to the mountains to visit the area around where the 2015 earthquake, and many previous earthquakes, had occurred. We’d originally planned to go as far as Ranau, but a Durian (“the king of fruits”) festival being held there meant there was a traffic jam stretching over 6km along the road into town! So instead we visited the area around Kundasang. From here, when the mist had lifted a bit, there were good views of the huge landslides caused by last year’s earthquake scarring the sides of Mt Kinabalu. The lines of faults cutting through the landscape were also quite clear to see. We drove a bit further up the mountain to visit one of the rivers that had been in flood after the earthquake due to the landslides. The gorge carved out when it had been in full flow looked far too big for the river currently running through it, but as the massive boulders deposited in the river valley attested, the water had been hugely powerful.

Durian and other exciting fruits!
Durian and other exciting fruits!

I now feel I’ve got a much more concrete appreciation of the region that I’m focussing on in the project and of the direction its going to take – and I’m looking forward to my next visit!

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