Historical Tsunami Database

(Under Continuous Construction)

Development of a Historical Tsunami Database

Major Tsunamis in the Hawaiian Islands

Major Pacific Tsunamis (to be added)

Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska (to be added)

Catalog of Tsunamis in Samoa (to be added)

Development of a Historical Tsunami Database

The development of a comprehensive and systematic compilation of historical tsunami data, not only in paper catalogs, but in standardized computer formats that would allow interactive retrieval by users is necessary.

The rationale is that such Historical Tsunami Database would become an indispesable tool in the operational analysis and real-time evaluation of the tsunami threat by the Pacific and Regional Tsunami Warning systems. Additionally, such a standardized Historical Tsunami Database could be widely used for coastal zone management, engineering design criteria, and disaster preparedness. Finally, it could be used by the public for informational and educational purposes.

Internet communications and software can indeed help make interactive retrieval of tsunami data, feasible for global sharing. With this in mind, I begun construction of a Historical Tsunami Database in which I am including initially some of my own compilations of historical tsunami data. In addition, I have presently under construction several more Pages which include substantially more historical Tsunami data, maps and other information. In addition, I plan to include links to other sites which contain similar Historical Tsunami databases.

MAJOR TSUNAMIS IN THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS (under continuous construction)

Excerpts from the "Catalog of Tsunamis in the Hawaiian Islands" by G. Pararas-Carayannis

A detailled catalog of all tsunamis recorded or observed in the Hawaiian Islands was prepared in 1967 and published as a report of the Hawai Institute of Geophysics of the Univrsity of Hawaii. This report was updated in 1974 and published as a World Data Center A-Tsunami report.

In these early catalogs all the available information was compiled from historical accounts, newspaper archives, other reports. and mareographic data. Most of the earthquake data was extracted from the Preliminary Catalog of Tsunamis Occurring in the Paclfic Ocean" by Iida, Cox, and Pararas-Carayannis and from Coast and Geodetic Survey records. Most of the events listed are associated with earthquakea, but some are associated with volcanic activity. Others, which do not show an association with earthquakes near the places of observation, may have been tsunamis of distant seismic origin for which there is no record.

The Hawalian Islands have a long history of destruction due to tsunamis and are particularly vulnerable to taunamis originating in the north and the southeast Pacific Ocean. The earliest recording of a tsunami goes back to April 11, 1819 when a wave from Chile reached a height of 2 m somewhere along the west coast of the Island of Hawaii. The same wave was also observed in Honolulu but it is poorly documented. Prior to 1813 a number of tsunamis probably reached the Islands but unfortunately the ancient Hawaiians kept no records. From 1813 to 1974 eighty-five tsunamis have been observed ln the Hawaiian Islands; fifteen of these have resulted in significant damage. A major local event occured in 1975. Since 1975 a number of small tsunamis have been recorded or observed, none of which resulted in loss of life or extensive damage to property.

Most of the destructive tsunamis in the Hawaiian Islands have been generated along the coast of South America, the Aleutian Islands, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and Japan. More than one-half of all the tsunamis recorded in Hawaii have originated in the Kuril-Kamchatka-Aleutian regions of the north and northwestern Pacific, and approximately one-fourth along the coast of South Amerlca. Some tsunamis have been generated in the Philippines, the New Hebrides, and the Tonga-Kermadec arcs. Although the earthquake-occurrence frequency is quite high in such areas, teunamis are usually infrequent and those generated have not been very destructive in Hawaii.

Although they may be destructtve in the immediate area of generation, tsunamis generated in the seas adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, such as the Philippine Sulu, Celebes, Molucca, Java, and South China eseas, do not affect the Hawailan Islande becauee most of their energy is trapped by the many ialands.

The number of locally generated teunamis is very small. Over the last one hundred yeare there have been only six tsunamis generated near the Hawaiian chain and of those only three were extremely destructive to property and human life. Of the locally generated events the tsunami of April 2, 1868 was reported to have a run up of about 20 m (the higheet wave ever recorded in the Islands) along the South Puna coaet of the Island of Hawail. The effects of this tsunami to the other Hawaiian Islands were insignificant

A Brief History of Hawaii

The Hawaiian Island are situated in the north central portion of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is a chain of ielands which extends over a distance of nearly two thousand miles. The main Hawaiian group is comprised of eight islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii. All of the islands are inhabited with the exception of Kahoolawe. At some time in the past two other islands in the chain, Nihoa and Necker, were occupied for a short period by the Polynesians but have been uninhabited for many years.

The early Hawaiians were a branch of the great Polynesian family which at a yet undetermined time in history, possibly as early as 1,000 A.D., occupied islands in the Pacific Ocean. There is considerable speculation and disagreement among ethnologists as to when the Polynesians came into the Pacific and the routes they followed to reach the far-separated Island groups. It is generally believed however that there were successive arrivale of settlers, mainly from the Society Islands, extending over some hundreds of years.

Archaeological findings on the islands of Nihoa and Necker indicate that the people who lived there were the earliest arrivals. During the 14th and 15th centuries Tahitian Polynesians "rediscovered" the islands and most of their immigration to Hawaii occurred during this interval. For the next five to six hundred years,until the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778, the Hawaiians lived in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world.

It was in the last quarter of the 18 th century on January 18, 1778, that a British expedition led by Captain James Cook, on a third voyage in the Pacific, sighted the island of Oahu. He landed at the village of Waimea on the island of Kauai on January 20. The islands were named the Sandwich Islands by Cook and the name persisted throughout the 19 th century. Many groups of traders from Europe and Asia later visited the islands and stayed on as permanent residents.

After the departure of the British expedition on March 15, 1778 no foreigners visited the islands until 1786. The development of the fur trade along the northwest coast of America brought ships of many nations into the North Pacific Ocean at the end of the 18 th century. Four foreign ships visited the islands in 1786. Two of them were connected with an English commercial enterprise. The other two were French naval vessels under the command of the celebrated explorer La Perouse. From then on not a single year passed without one or more ships visiting the islands. Hawaii became a well-established port of call by the vessels engaged in the fur trade and in the general trade which was growing between Asia and the Americas.

The consolidation of the entire island group into one kingdom occurred during the forty years following the visits of Captain Cook. King Kamehameha was the most outstanding of all the Hawalian chiefs and he accomplished this feat starting in 1795. Under the powerful leadership of Kamehameha agriculture was promoted, industry was encouraged and law and order were enforced.

In 1814 Russians from Alaska were sent to form a colony in the islands. Their ship was wrecked at Waimea, Kaui. More Russians arrived on another ahip the following year and remained in the islands until they were expelled in 1817.

The first New England missionaries arrived in the islands via Cape Horn on the brig "Thaddeus" on March 31, 1820. In later years, fourteen other groups of missionaries of various denominations arrived in Hawaii.

The Kingdom of Hawaii feared claims of France and Britain and took steps in 1842 to establish its status a a sovereign state and to negotiate treaties with them. In 1843 the kingdom ran into some difficulties with representatives of the British government who wanted to annex the islands. The sovereignty of the kingdom was quickly restored with France and Great Britain jointly recognizing the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii on November 29, 1843. The United States had already recognized Hawaii's independence.

Agitation for annexation of Hawaii by the United States began as early as 1853 and was stimulated by the many industries that had developed in the islands with American capital. Hawaii remained a monarchy until 1894 when the last of the monarchs, Queen Liliuokalani, was deposed after much internal strife. A republic was proclaimed which was modeled after that of the United States.

In 1898 negotiations for the annexation of the islands by the United States were completed and a resolution was signed by President McKinley on July 7. A territorial form of government in Hawaii was established by Congress in 1900 and Sanford Ballard Dole, who was president of the Republic, was appointed the first governor of the Territory.

As early as 1935 Hawaii was considered for statehood but World War II brought the movement for statehood to a standstill. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 marked the beginning of World War II for the United States. The war in the Pacific finally ended on August 14, 1945. Statehood for Hawaii was approved on March 11, 1959.

Photographs of the 1946 Tsunami at Hilo

The 1960 Tsunami in Hilo