Tales of a great Pacific Coast earthquake passed down in legend

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13 Responses to “Tales of a great Pacific Coast earthquake passed down in legend”

  1. awjt says:

    Pretty sure there is geologic evidence of a big tsunami around 1700.  It was mentioned last year in some articles when the tsunami rolled through under the Golden Gate bridge and jostled some marinas.

    • Henry Pootel says:

      There’s tons of evidence awjt – the legends are just another confirmation of what’s already been shown in core samples and more.  There are also historical records of a tsunami in Japan in 1700 that probably came from this same earthquake.

  2. schr0559 says:

    Can’t find the reference, but I recall reading that the 1700 earthquake left evidence of tsunami debris in Lake Washington, two miles from Puget Sound on the eastern edge of Seattle.  

    Keep in mind that back then, the lake wasn’t connected to the Sound, which itself is supposed to dampen the effect of any tsunamis.  That’s one helluva wave.

  3. noah django says:

    another connection to Japan’s experience of the quake:  the stories are prototypical Godzilla movies.  awesome!

  4. Henry Pootel says:

    Here is an article that goes much deeper into the science side of the paleoseismic research in the PWN…

    http://discovermagazine.com/2012/extreme-earth/01-big-one-earthquake-could-devastate-pacific-northwest 

  5. travtastic says:

    Well I was just checking out property values up there, I guess I’ll have to start cross-referencing elevation. :(

  6. Neuron says:

    The earthquake was not “around 1700″; it occurred on January 26, 1700. And the Oregon Department of Transportation predicts that if the next Cascadia Subduction Zone quake were to happen today, 70 western Oregon bridges will go down.

  7. niktemadur says:

    Fascinating stuff.  The Juan de Fuca Plate scares the living daylights outta me.

    As for this sort of data gathering, it’s the same principle as an old Inca folk tale of tongues of fire descending from the sky and caressing the ground.  A few years ago, a sequence of huge skid marks from a single meteor were found in northwestern Argentina, dating back to around the time of, you guessed it, the Incas.

    Seems this meteor of just the right size, hit the atmosphere at just the right angle to skip across the ground, as a stone would across a pond, before it blew up into a gazillion bits (because it left no crater, only skid marks), an event that would have been easily visible from many places along the southern section of the Inca Trail.

  8. penguinchris says:

     These kinds of things are great, and not just because it’s fun – this kind of data is crucial. Of course it’s cross-referenced with other things (like tsunami deposits in the rock record) but the key is that you can get an exact date – carbon-14 and every other radioisotope dating method have massive inherent error, and for the time scales of earthquakes it can be a big problem.

    Earthquake predictions are based on maybe 100 years of good data, and then what little scraps of other data can be determined from the rock record (you can see sequences of earthquakes if you dig a trench along a fault) and recorded history for before that. If your “big one” style earthquakes happen infrequently – every 100-150 years, say – that means we have maybe three or four data points at most to make future predictions on.

    That’s why earthquake prediction is difficult to impossible right now, at least for the biggest earthquakes – other, unproven methods have to be used, like computer modeling.

  9. Kimmo says:

    Wow, that’s a viscerally captivating image.

    Fucking scary. I feel like a deer in the headlights looking at it.

  10. Will Bueche says:

    And the moral is don’t frak with whales.

  11. Ed Hunt says:

    Actually, I went out with Geologist Brian Atwater in the early 1990s and I was one of the first to publish his tree-core research. He and another UW scientist used dendrochronology matched with Japanese warehouse records to nail down the date of the 9.0 1700 quake. It was Jan 26, 1700 at about 9 am Pacific coast time.  There is plenty of geologic evidence in the soil and in tree snags down here in Pacific County.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1700_Cascadia_earthquake and 
    The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 by Atwater et al. 

  12. hhype says:

    There was a great book published a while ago called, “When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth” by Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Paul T. Barber,.  The books central thesis is that myths contain real historical information, describing actual events that were preserved by pre-literate peoples in the only way they could – by telling interesting stories to preserve it.  The the stories then become altered and distorted over time due to the nature of storytelling via several rules that the authors lay out.  Many of the examples in the book are about volcanic eruptions and earthquakes just like the one here.

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