Irish Tsunami: Myths and Dangers to Aran?

aranisland-doolin.jpegHat tip to:
DICK AHLSTROM Irish Times Science Editor

IT HAS happened before - and it could happen again. Ireland's coastline could be struck by a huge tsunami triggered by any one of a number of events.

"Yes we do have the potential for a tsunami because we have been hit in the past," said Prof Mike Williams of NUI Galway.

Don't start counting down the days just yet, he cautions. It will take a large earthquake, underwater landslide or even an asteroid striking the Atlantic before we see the next big one.

Prof Williams will deliver a talk, Irish Tsunami - Myths and Dangers this evening at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, an event planned as part of Science Week.

He became interested in Irish tsunami events when trying to sort out why so many huge boulders lie perched atop cliffs on our coasts and in places like the Aran Islands.

Clearly they had been tossed there by tsunami or storms. After extensive research he decided on an answer. Some were tossed out of the sea in 1839 on the so called "Night of the Big Wind", he said.

More spectacularly, a massive earthquake in the Gulf of Cadiz off Portugal on November 1st, 1755, kicked up a huge wave that pushed into the Atlantic. It rushed up Galway Bay to carry away people and knock down part of the Spanish Arch. The "Lisbon earthquake" had unexpected consequences, Prof Williams said. "It persuaded the king of Portugal to live in a tent for the rest of his life."

A repeat represents the most likely cause of a tsunami today, Prof Williams said, but would be impossible to predict.

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