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Tsunami in Boothbay Harbor, Maine: US East Coast tsunami vulnerable?

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A bizarre "wave event" in Boothbay Harbor in Maine, in 2008, puzzled the experts. This phenomenon was not caused by an earthquake, a storm or tidal surge, or underwater landslide. Then, what caused it?

This what residents reported:

On the afternoon of Oct 28, the water in Boothbay Harbor suddenly withdrew toward the ocean. Then it rushed back toward the shore in a muddy swirl of currents with wave heights of up to 12 ft. It happened not once but, repeated again and again. The ocean's strange behavior was noted along the coast from Bristol to Cundy's Harbor - that is, a drop in water level followed by huge waves.

John Sowles, Maine Department of Marine Resources in Boothbay, saw from his office window what he described as an upwelling of water and strange currents with whitecaps stretching for hundreds of feet. The whole event took about 15 minutes, after which floats, docks, and a lobster boat had been ripped loose.

About an hour before low tide, Dockworker Marcy Ingall saw a giant wave in the distance and watched as the muddy Boothbay Harbor floor suddenly filled with rushing, swirling water. In 15 minutes, the water rose 12 feet, and then receded. It did this again and again, each time ripping apart docks and splitting wooden pilings.

Janice Newell, who lives nearby in Head of the Harbor, said the rushing water "was of biblical proportion." There were three large whirlpools in the inner harbor.

Elena Smith of McSeagull's restaurant overlooking the harbor said the late-afternoon lunch crowd watched speechless as the waters rose and receded, running like rapids. Some residents reported seeing massive whirlpools of water that disappeared, leaving clam shells and seaweed in vortex patterns on the harbor floor.

What it wasn't . . .

  • It wasn't caused by a landslide. Dr. Joseph Kelley, a marine geologist at the University of Maine, thought an above-ground landslide was unlikely, saying "If it was a landslide, you'd have to have a huge amount of material falling into the sea, and there is no bluff big enough to cause the waves like that."
  • For sure it wasn't caused by a landside. After reviewing tide and wave data, Dr. Juan Horillo, a tsunami expert at Texas A&M, discarded a local underwater landslide theory because a near-shore landslide usually generates an initial large wave front with smaller subsequent waves, and this was not the case.
  • It wasn't storm or weather related. Horrillo's colleague at Texas A & M, Dr. Vijay Panchang, who developed a wave forecast model for the Gulf of Maine, said, "The kinds of waves I deal with are wind-generated, and this doesn't look like that's what happened. These are not regular storm waves."
  • It wasn't caused by an earthquake. The National Weather Service checked with the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center to see if perhaps an earthquake had generated the tsunami. Bill Knight was the scientist on duty at the time. Knight confirmed that their global network of 350 seismometers have not picked up any sign of an earthquake.

Just what was it?

Could it have been a mini-tsunami triggered by the uplift or subsidence of part of the sea floor, with water suddenly rising and sinking? In 1997, the Zetas of ZetaTalk predicted that as the time of the Pole Shift approached, tectonic plate movement would be the cause of rogue waves of tsunamis. This would seem to be the case.

As if in confirmation of the Zetas prediction, in 2011, scientists discovered never-before-seen kinds of waves as the result of an experiment simulating the ocean floor. The experiment showed that undersea tectonic plate movement could indeed cause tsunamis or rogue waves.

What do you think? Was this bizarre wave in Boothbay Harbor caused by undersea tectonic plate movement? You be the judge of that.

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