• academic neocolonialism;
  • Tōhoku disaster;
  • Christchurch earthquake

After the 2004 events in the Indian Ocean and, again, after the 2011 Tōhoku catastrophe, the number of scientific publications on tsunami topics doubled in the subsequent 2 years. Such mass information has the potential to drive major improvements in tsunami disaster mitigation. Unfortunately, however, ‘gold rush’ publications are increasingly penned to the detriment of quality research and, thus, invite the inverse potential benefits. The present contribution critiques one such publication, Crowley and Elliott, in terms of their simplistic assertions, literature misinterpretations and lack of cultural and linguistic knowledge of the societies involved, bordering on neocolonialism. We argue that these authors present a distorted, if not sophistic, representation of both the Tōhoku (Japan) and the Canterbury (New Zealand) disasters. Our aim is to correct several records in terms of the recent Japanese and New Zealand events, and to suggest that the scientific community has a critical duty to scrutinize post-disaster ‘gold rush’ publications since proffered paradigms and imagined geographies can either inform or misinform disaster mitigation strategies.