The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America

One winter’s night in the year 1700, a mys­ter­i­ous tsunami flooded fields and washed away houses in Ja­pan. It ar­rived without warn­ing that a nearby earth­quake usu­ally provides. Samurai, mer­chants, and vil­la­gers re­cor­ded the event, but nearly three cen­tur­ies would pass be­fore dis­cov­er­ies in North Amer­ica re­vealed the tsunami’s source. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 tells the sci­entif­ic de­tect­ive story through clues from both sides of the Pa­cific. The evid­ence un­covered tells of a cata­strophe, a cen­tury be­fore Lewis and Clark, that now helps guide pre­par­a­tions for fu­ture earth­quakes and tsuna­mis in the United States and Canada.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington