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Terrestrial Tour: The Case of the Orphan Tsunami and the Ghost Forest

This feature video tells the story of the 1700 tsunami that was recorded in the Pacific Northwest United States and in Japan in very different ways. Scientists used a combination of written records, oral history, and geology to solve a 300-year-old mystery.


Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory.

·       Japanese artwork of flooded building from the Sanriku earthquake of 1896: University of British Columbia Library
·       Map of Japan in the Genroku Era and maps of the Suruga Province of Japan, 1702: Koreto Ashida Map Collection, Meiji University Library
·       Satellite image of Japan: World Wide Telescope
·       Photos of the ghost forest: Brian Atwater, USGS
·       Map of Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest by Hubert Howe Bancroft, 1883: Project Gutenberg
·       Satellite image of the Pacific Northwest: World Wide Telescope
·       Map of the North America by Gillaume Del’Isle, 1720: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division
·       Pages of a journal from Morioka, 1700: Morioka City Central Community Center, Documents Office
·       Visualization of the 1700 Cascadia tsunami: NOAA
·       Panoramic map by Mino Komaki, 1687: C. V. Starr East Asian Library–University of California, Berkeley

Written by Leah Ramsay
Designed by Dani Player and Leah Hustak
Editorial and design input from Margaret W. Carruthers, Timothy Rhue II, John Godfrey, and Claire Blome
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music

For more information about the Orphan Tsunami, see USGS Professional Paper 1707: “The orphan tsunami of 1700—Japanese clues to a parent earthquake in North America” by Brian F. Atwater, Satoko Musumi-Rokkaku , Kenji Satake , Yoshinobu Tsuji , Kazue Ueda , and David K. Yamaguchi (2015).


All narration is presented in text form within the video. In addition, a full transcript will be available in the Library in the near future. Check back soon!