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Tsunamis through History Essay

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Tsunami waves also caused damage in the Marquesas, in Samoa, and in New Zealand. 1896 Tsunami Affecting Japan On June 15 1896, an earthquake occurred of the coast near the Japanese port city of Sanriku. The earthquake, which measured 7. 2 on the Richter scale, triggered the formation a massive tsunami that devastated the city killing over 26,000 people. The tsunami waves reached an intimidating height of 25 meters (80 feet) as it crashed upon a crowd that had gathered in a city to celebrate a religious festival. The tsunami was also observed across the Pacific: In Hawaii, wharves were demolished and several houses were swept away.

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In California, a 9. feet wave was observed, according to the San Francisco Chronicle of June 16, 1896. This Sanriku tsunami served as an impetus for tsunami research in Japan. What is unusual about this disaster is that the size of the tsunami was much larger than would be expected from the size of the earthquake, 7. 2 on the Richter scale. At the time of the Sanriku tsunami earthquake, a weak shock was felt, followed by an extremely slow shaking that lasted about 5 minutes. Approximately 35 minutes after the earthquake, the large tsunami arrived at the Sanriku coast. 1883 Tsunami Affecting Indonesia The volcanic explosion of Krakatoa is one of the most impressive natural disasters ever recorded in history.

On August 26th 1883, the island volcano of Krakatoa exploded with devastating fury, blowing its underground magma chamber partly empty so that much overlying land and seabed collapsed into it. The great majority of the island simply was destroyed as it sank to the ocean floor. The volcanic disturbance triggered a series of large tsunami waves, some reaching a height of over 40 meters above sea level. Although no one is known to have been killed as a result of the initial explosion, the tsunamis it generated had disastrous results, killing over 36,000 people, and wiping out a number of settlements, including Telok Batong in Sumatra, and Sirik and Semarang in Java. Tsunami waves were observed throughout the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the American West Coast, South America, and even as far away as the English Channel.

On the facing coasts of Java and Sumatra the sea flood went many miles inland and caused such vast loss of life that one area was never resettled but went back to the jungle and is now the Ujung Kulon nature reserve. Ships as far away as South Africa rocked as tsunamis hit them, and the bodies of victims were found floating in the ocean for weeks after the event. There are even numerous documented reports of groups of human skeletons floating across the Indian Ocean on rafts of volcanic pumice and washing up on the east coast of Africa up to a year after the eruption. 1755 Tsunami Affecting Portugal and Much of Europe On November 1st 1755, one of the biggest earthquakes in history occurred in he Atlantic Ocean just of the coast of the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon. The total duration of shaking lasted ten minutes and was comprised of three distinct jolts. Scientists estimate that the earthquake was in the range of 9. 0 on the Richter scale, which caused extensive damage throughout Lisbon. Surprisingly, the events that unfolded from this disaster has been well-documented. After the earthquake, survivors rushed to the open space of the docks for safety and watched as the water receded, revealing the sea floor, littered by lost cargo and old shipwrecks. About 35 minutes after the initial earthquake, an enormous tsunami engulfed the Portuguese harbor and the city’s downtown.

Two other tsunamis followed to add to more devastation to the already suffering area. Effects from the earthquake and tsunamis were far reaching. The worst damage occurred in the south-west of Portugal, which included Lisbon. The tsunami reached, with less intensity, the coast of Spain, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium and Holland. In Madeira and in the Azores islands damage was extensive and many ships were in danger of being wrecked. In total, over 100,000 people were killed, with most fatalities incurred in Lisbon, where over a third of the population were instantaneously wiped out. This tragic disaster served as the impetus for earthquake research in the world.

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