Monday, January 16, 2012

What is a Tsunami?

After watching a video online, I had the urge to read and to get a better understanding of what a Tsunami is and how it can affect us. I then had to interview my father, because he was raised in a small fishing town in Ecuador, where he had witnessed two Tsunamis. I remember growing up with my dad telling random stories about him swimming in the Pacific Ocean or being nearly attacked by sharks and many other stories that I had trouble relating to. Some of the stories he told us, were about events I would expect to see in a large budget Hollywood movie.

A Tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or lake. Causes for this type of an event may come from, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, underwater explosions such as a nuclear bomb, breaking away glaciers, and meteorite impacts. Tsunami waves do not resemble normal sea waves, because the waves occupy a much wider area than one can simply see with our eyes. They are seen and used to be referred to as tidal waves, which occur with a frequency from minutes to hours at a time.
Please refer to the original source of the information and to read more about Tsunamis, please visit;

I have waited years for the opportunity to write about what my father had witnessed. I had told him that he should write a book, and that some of his tales could end up on the Discovery Channel or PBS. My father witnessed his first Tsunami in 1941, that was the same year Ecuador fought a battle with Peru and of course when the US was bombed at Pearl Harbor. My dad lived in a fishing town in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. He was with my Grandmother near the banks of the Esmeraldas River and his location was about one mile from the coast of the Pacific Ocean where the river would empty its fresh water into the pristine emerald sea. From a very young age he can clearly remember feeling a tremor, then watched the river flow stop. By what appeared to be an unnatural force, the water reversed its direction and was started to flow inland where the water dissipated until the river was bare. Fishermen in canoes, scrambled to jump and grab fish jumping about in the dry river bed. Then the unexpected happened, the water that rushed inland to leave the river bare, had started to flow back to the sea with incredible force. My dad saw a wave roughly about 30 feet high that luckily passed by him and my grandmother, to wash away some of the fisherman that unfortunately were catching fish in the dry riverbed. Several homes were damaged and or washed away from the wave, luckily this was a very small town with few residents, and casualties were very low. What he now realizes that this was the result of a Tsunami that was caused by an underwater volcanic crater that he found was located at the coast where the river emptied into the sea.

The second Tsunami that my father witnessed occurred in 1957 again in Esmeraldas, where he was standing on a street and he felt a strong earthquake. The force of the earthquake was so powerful that it moved the ground in the form of a visible ground wave that traveled from one part of the town to another, he saw a car driving on the road at the time and, it had surfed on this oscillating wave that proceeded through the town. There also was a wave of water that may have reached about 80 feet high and was pushing homes in its path many homes collapsed and or heavily damaged. By fantastic luck, my father was far enough away to not have been hit by this wave. He ran to look for his mother who he thought was at a church down the street, he heard a young girl screaming and when he got to the church, he was not able to get inside. People inside of the church were trapped by the settled structure that blocked the door that would normally open inwards. He pushed the door and moved it enough for him to look in and found that people were being trampled, stepped on by folks trying to flee the building. He then ran down the street again to his sister in law’s house. There he found that the kitchen stove was forcefully moved from the kitchen to the other side of the house and it had stuck my grandmother, which broke her arm. After that last event, he was on a plane a week later and he could see from the air that there was a volcanic crater at the end of the river that meets the sea. This was the cause of these two linked Tsunami events. He also recalled that at the coast that there were many clues to this volcanic activity, one was that he saw lava rock. He will never forget from these events of the size and power of the Tsunami waves and its unusual forces of how the water rushed inland, then came back as a terrible wave that catches everyone by surprise, which very few can escape its path.  I had visited Esmeraldas many years later, I was not able to see this underwater crater, but I am sure it is there sleeping until the next event.

Here is a video of other events that caused me to read and learn from my dad's history.

I have to warn you to not have small children see this video..

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