Evidence has mounted for nearly 20 years that a great earthquake ripped the seafloor off the Washington coast in 1700, long before there were any written records in the region. Now, a newly authenticated record of a fatal shipwreck in Japan has added an intriguing clue.
Written records collected from villages along a 500-mile stretch of the main Japanese island of Honshu show the coast was hit by a series of waves, collectively called a tsunami, on Jan. 28, 1700. Because no Japanese earthquake warned of the waves, it is likely they came from somewhere else around the Pacific Rim, said Brian Atwater, an affiliate professor of Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington and a U.S. Geological Survey geologist.
In the village of Kuwagasaki (now part of the town of Miyako) 300 miles northeast of Tokyo, the tsunami is believed to have crested at about 10 feet, destroying 13 houses and starting a fire that consumed additional houses. Records from five other towns lend more evidence for a tsunami generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake off the Washington coast on Jan. 26, 1700.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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