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Nehalem Talk Looks at 'Orphan Tsunami' from Oregon Coast in 1700

Published 06/26/23 at 6:11 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Nehalem Talk Looks at 'Orphan Tsunami' from Oregon Coast in 1700

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – Some 323 years ago, a puzzling tsunami roared into Japan in January of 1700. In that ancient, feudal land, Samurai, merchants and villagers all wrote of major damage and flooding, appearing out of nowhere. There was no earthquake felt. No usual warning. Yet they had no way to know what had just occurred was a massive undersea quake a continent away – on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The Cascadia Subduction zone had just given way and erupted in a major quake, destroying many things on both sides of the ocean.

In the 1990s, the puzzle started to be put together, as a myriad of fascinating discoveries led to the full realization of what will come again to the Pacific Northwest. The quake's subsequent tsunami leveled even along both shorelines.

Geologist Dr. Brian Atwater, author of “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700,” will share his research on this ancient tsunami and what it means for people in the Northwest, especially the Oregon coast.

The presentation will take place on July 8 at 3:30 pm at North County Recreation District (NCRD) at 36155 9th Street in Nehalem. Sponsored by the Nehalem Valley Historical Society, the $10 entrance fee will benefit the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay.

Dr. Atwater will also be signing copies of his book on July 8 at 9 am at Offshore Grill and Coffee House, 154 Laneda Ave. Manzanita. The book will be available for sale that morning through Cloud & Leaf Bookstore, located next door to Offshore Grill.

For more information, contact NVHS at

Tsunami Background and Remnants Today

South Beach / Newport area: a Doug Fir killed in the 1700 tsunami

While the Japanese have written accounts, regional tribes here have their stories passed down through the generations. It created an epic tale of struggle between two powerful entities, Thunderbird and Whale. The stories vary as to which one was the villain, but the end result was shaking Earth and an ocean that suddenly retreated, then just as abruptly came screaming inland, wiping out whole villages and leaving canoes in trees.

Some of the groundbreaking research on the 1700 tsunami has been done in the soils of Cape Lookout State Park, just to the east of the shoreline. Evidence of the tsunami has been found as much as a mile inland.

You can still see many of the ghost forests stumps that come from that event – although they are not the ones on the beach that many know of. [Explanations of Neskowin Ghost Forest Wrong, Say Oregon Coast Geologists] The remnants of the 1700 quake and even from earlier ones exist along the estuaries of the Oregon coast. Estuary stumps – and every coastal estuary has them – come in different ages as well. Some have them from different millennia events, thousands and thousands of years old at times. This is a big revelation to many coastal fans: there are many more ghost forests than people know about.

Stump from the 1700 quake near Coos Bay, courtesy Greg Lerwill

They don't look as interesting as the sand-based ghost forests, however.

Another, unknown set of these was identified at Coos Bay with the help of resident Greg Lerwill back in 2021. New Ghost Forest from 1700 ID'd Near Coos Bay

Hotels in Manzanita, Wheeler - Where to eat - Manzanita, Wheeler Maps and Virtual Tours


Neskowin ghost forests - product of a slow process of landscape change, not an earthquake

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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