Link to USGS home page.
The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America
U.S. Geological Survey
Professional Paper 1707

Prepared in cooperation with the Geological Survey of Japan (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology), the University of Tokyo, and the University of Washington.
Published in association with University of Washington Press.

The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America

By Brian F. ATWATER   Brian F. Atwater in Japanese,
MUSUMI-ROKKAKU Satoko   Musumi-Rokkaku Satoko in Japanese,
SATAKE Kenji   Satake Kenji in Japanese,
TSUJI Yoshinobu   Tsuji Yoshinobu in Japanese,
UEDA Kazue   Ueda Kazue in Japanese,
and David K. YAMAGUCHI   David K. Yamaguchi in Japanese


map of Pacific showing wave moving from North America to Japan
A simulated tsunami reaches Japan ten hours after its start along the Pacific coast of North America

One winter's night in the year 1700, a mysterious tsunami flooded fields and washed away houses in Japan. It arrived without the warning that a nearby earthquake usually provides. Samurai, merchants, and villagers recorded the event, but nearly three centuries would pass before discoveries in North America revealed the tsunami's source.

The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 tells this scientific detective story through clues from both sides of the Pacific. The evidence uncovered tells of a catastrophe, a century before Lewis and Clark, that now helps guide preparations for future earthquakes and tsunamis in the United States and Canada.

Download Professional Paper 1707 as a 144-page PDF file (116.8 MB)

Individual Chapters


Front Matter

Part 1, Unearthed earthquakes: •Earthquake potential •Tsunami potential •Flood stories •Alaskan analog •Sunken shores •Sand sheets •In harm's way •Currents and cracks •Magnitude 9?

Part 2, The orphan tsunami: •Literate hosts •Wetted places •Primary sources

Kuwagasaki: •Account in Morioka-han "Zassho" •Words for waves •Converting time •Samurai scribes •High ground •Tsunami size

Tsugaruishi: •Account in Moriai-ke "Nikki kakitome chō" •Human error •Social status •Foreign waves •Tsunami size

Otsuchi: •Account in Morioka-han "Zassho" •Report to Edo •Collected writings •Tsunami size

Nakaminato: •Account in Ōuchi-ke "Go-yōdome" •Certified loss •Fair-weather waves •Simulated waves

Miho: •Account in "Miho-mura yōji oboe" •Tidal waves •Tsunami size

Tanabe: •Account in "Tanabe-machi daichō" •Tsunami size near a storehouse •Tsunami size near Tanabe Bay •Sawtooth cycles

Part 3, The orphan's parent: •By elimination •Tree-ring tests •Magnitude 9 •Muddy forecast •High-enough ground •Seismic waves

Back Matter

Folder of Chapters PDFS. This folder contains the 12 PDFs that comprise this report (123.4 MB total)

For questions about the content of this report, contact Brian Atwater

Download a current version of Adobe Reader for free

| Help | PDF help | Western reports main page | Western Professional Papers |
| Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Accessibility |
| Geologic Division | University of Washington |

Paper copies of this report are available from:

University of Washington Press
P.O. Box 5009
Seattle, WA 98145

| Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey |
URL of this page:
Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: August 2, 2005
Last modified: November 22, 2005 (mfd)