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No. 44: Mar-Apr 1986

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Northwest indian tradition of a large-scale sea inundation

Science, quite wisely, places little value on legend and tradition. The authors of this article stess the pitfalls of using data handed down verbally from generation to generation. With these caveats, they reproduce an Indian tradition originally set down by Judge James Swan back in 1888:

"'A long time ago,' said my informant, 'but not at a very remote period, the water of the Pacific flowed through what is now the swamp and prairie between Waatch village and Neeah Bay, making an island of Cape Flattery. The water suddenly receded leaving Neeah Bay perfectly dry. It was four days reaching the lowest ebb, and then rose again without any waves or breakers, till it had submerged the Cape, and in fact the whole country, excepting the tops of the mountains at Clyoquot. The water on its rise became very warm, and as it came up to the houses, those who had canoes put their effects into them, and floated off with the current, which set very strongly to the north.'"

The authors of the present article wonder if the above could be an account of a massive tsunami! They admit that the 4-day recession is inconsistent with tsunami action and that the warm water is hard-to-explain. The height reached by the inundation -- some 400 meters -- is also incredible.

(Heaton, Thomas H., and Snavely, Parke D., Jr.; "Possible Tsunami along the Northwestern Coast of the United States Inferred from Indian Traditions," Seismological Society of America, Bulletin, 75:1455, 1985.)

From Science Frontiers #44, MAR-APR 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss