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The Hell of High Water: Tsunami and the Cornish Coast



The 2011 Annual Kelliwic Lecture presented by Professor Simon Haslett at Callington Town Hall, Cornwall, on Sunday 29th May 2011. Simon Haslett is Professor of Physical Geography and Dean of the ...

The 2011 Annual Kelliwic Lecture presented by Professor Simon Haslett at Callington Town Hall, Cornwall, on Sunday 29th May 2011. Simon Haslett is Professor of Physical Geography and Dean of the School of STEM at the University of Wales.



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    The Hell of High Water: Tsunami and the Cornish Coast The Hell of High Water: Tsunami and the Cornish Coast Presentation Transcript

    • The Hell of High Water: Tsunami and the Cornish Coast. Professor Simon K. Haslett Dean, School of STEM 2 nd Annual Kelliwic Lecture, Callington Town Hall, Cornwall Sunday 29 th May 2011
    • From McGuire (2005, New Scientist)
    • From Allen & Haslett (2002)
    • Somerset Levels from Brean Down.
    • Evidence of the 1607 flood 1
      • Contemporary historic pamphlets giving the:
      • date (20 th Jan 1606 = 30 th Jan 1607)
      • timing (“about nine in the morning” in Somerset)
      • details of damage (2000 deaths and great economic loss).
    • Burnham 1607 tides (HW at 8.28am)
    • Evidence of the 1607 flood 2
      • Commemorative plaques and inscriptions in/on churches in South Wales and Somerset.
    • Tsunami theory for the 1607 flood
      • Some contradictory meteorological reports
      • e.g. “a violent sea wind” (Camden, 1607) vs. “the morning … so fayrely and brightly spred” (Harleian Miscellany, 1607).
      • Descriptions of a “wave” reminiscent of a tsunami rather than a storm e.g. “wave’s furie”.
      • Extract from God’s warning to his people of England
    • Extracts from Lamentable Newes out of Monmouthshire Wave velocity Inland Penetration There is an extract from St. Uny’s Church that “a great influx of sand might have happened at Hayle” during the 1607 event.
    • Sampling sand layers
    • Measuring boulder dimensions
    • 1607 Earthquake hypothesis
      • Prof Michael Disney (Cardiff University) published in The Times (5 th Jan 2005):
      • “ The sky was blue, the tide was high, there is a second-hand report of an earth tremor felt earlier that morning”.
      • Local seismic activity (earthquakes) in Feb and May 1607.
    • GEBCO Bathymetry
    • Other British tsunami?
      • 33 other possible UK tsunami-like events
      • 12 recorded in Cornwall!
    • 28th September 1014
      • Accounts suggest that a flood affected Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Cumbria, and Mount’s Bay in Cornwall, where the Bay was “inundated by a ‘mickle seaflood’ when many towns and people were drowned”.
      Marazion Marsh
    • 28th September 1014
      • William of Malmesbury in The History of the English Kings (vol. 1) states that “a tidal wave ….. grew to an astonishing size such as the memory of man cannot parallel, so as to submerge villages many miles inland and overwhelm and drown their inhabitants”.
      • the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that “on the eve of St. Michael’s Day [28th September], came the great sea-flood, which spread wide over this land, and ran so far up as it never did before, overwhelming many towns, and an innumerable multitude of people”
    • 28th September 1014
      • Baillie (2007) considers this flood to have been a tsunami caused by a comet impact.
      • Ice core data indicates that the highest ammonium spike within the historic period occurs in 1014.
    • 28th September 1014
      • Baillie (2007) cites Chinese astronomy in support of comet (debris?) impact.
      • In Nova Scotia, Micmac legends include reference to possible comet impacts.
    • 28th September 1014
      • Tsunami models show it is possible that a large tsunami would be able to wrap around the British Isles, affecting Cumbria, Cornwall and English Channel.
      • Dr Steven Ward (UCSC) has produced animated impact tsunami models of the Atlantic and around the British Isles.
    • Lisbon tsunami 1755
    • Documented sites in Southwest
      • Mount’s Bay – arrival of 4 tsunami over 2 hours (<3m high).
      • Stonehouse Creek (Plymouth) – sand sheets deposited.
      • Lamorna Cove – boulders tossed around like pebbles.
      • Big Pool, St. Agnes – sand sheet deposited.
    • Stonehouse Creek, Plymouth
    • Lamorna Cove
    • Big Pool, St. Agnes
    • 19 th Century Tsunami
      • 23 May 1842 – after an earthquake felt in the Scillies , several waves <2m high came ashore in Mount’s Bay creating “a very extraordinary commotion of the sea”.
      • 18 August 1892 – after an earthquake felt from South Wales to the Scillies, “there was a rapid rise in the River Fowey as a great tidal wave”.
    • Future Risk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnyxZQ8JVlM Join me on: Facebook – search ‘Professor Simon Haslett” Twitter – search ‘ProfSHaslett” Also, YouTube , LinkedIn , Flickr , Slideshare , Blogger
      • Further Reading
      • Haslett, S. K., & Bryant, E. A., 2005. The AD 1607 coastal flood in the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary: historical records from Devon and Cornwall. Archaeology in the Severn Estuary , 15 (for 2004), 81-89.
      • Haslett, S. K. & Bryant, E. A., 2007. Reconnaissance of historic (post-AD 1000) high energy deposits along the Atlantic coasts of southwest Britain, Ireland and Brittany, France. Marine Geology , 242 , 207-220.
      • Haslett, S. K. & Bryant, E. A., 2008. Historic tsunami in Britain since AD 1000: a brief review. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences , 8 , 587-601.