The Lost Tale of an 18th-Century Tsunami, as Told by Trees

Local evidence of the cataclysm has literally washed away over the years. But Oregon’s Douglas firs may have recorded clues deep in their tree rings.

One night in late January 1700, two tectonic plates running along the Pacific Northwest coast released the tension they had accumulated during a centuries-long tête-à-tête. In a tectonic roar, the Juan de Fuca plate slipped past the North American plate, and a roughly 9.0-magnitude earthquake rattled the entire region. The coastline dropped and tsunamis washed over the entire Northwest coast.

Indigenous stories recount the disaster, but scientists only connected these dots later. Geological evidence of the events wasn’t found until

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