Samoan tsunami killed hundreds, destroyed Survivor locations one year ago

One year ago last Tuesday, a tsunami destroyed land and lives in the Pacific Ocean, including the southern part of Samoa, where Survivor Samoa and Survivor Heroes vs. Villains were both filmed. It left hundreds homeless on Samoa, and killed almost 200 people, mostly on that island.

Season 20 had just completed filming when it hit, and the remaining show crew was safe, in part because their hotel is on the northern part of the island, which was mostly unaffected. Because Survivor used the now-closed Ili’ili Resort for Ponderosa, the pre- and post-game holding area for contestants, and its owner said the show’s use of it saved lives, because it wasn’t occupied when the tsunami hit. (View photos of the destroyed resort.)

To see what Ponderosa and other locations looked like before the tsunami, here are a few of the photos I took at Ponderosa, at a challenge beach, and on the way to the tribe beaches (which were also on the south side of the island and thus affected, although a Survivor-themed resort is still being planned for that location).

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.