Based on records in Japan and ghost forests and sediment cores in Washington, we know that, at around 9pm on this date in the year 1700, the Cascadia earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest, sending a tsunami to Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. It is estimated at 9.0 on the Richter scale, one of the largest earthquakes in the history of the world.
The Tillamook describe it as an epic battle between the Thunderbird and the Whale. The Whale was carried in the Thunderbird’s talons to the mountaintop. The two fought hard, “violently shaking the mountain, so that it was impossible to stand upon it.”
The Quileute recall the “shaking, jumping up and trembling of the earth, and a rolling up of the great waters.”
The tsunami reached about thirty-three feet high along the Washington coast, in part because the land had fallen six vertical feet, submerging miles of red cedar and Sitka spruce in salt water. The tsunami was six to ten feet high when it struck Japan.
Makah oral history provides some details: “A long time ago, 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 Neah Bay, making an island of Cape Flattery. The water suddenly receded leaving Neah Bay perfectly dry. It then rose again without any wave or breakers…. 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. Some drifted one way, some another; and when the waters assumed their accustomed level, a portion of the tribe found themselves beyond Nootka, where their descendants now reside, and are known by the same name as the Makahs in Classett, or Kwenaitchechat. Many canoes came down in trees and were destroyed, and numerous lives were lost. The water was four days regaining its accustomed level.”