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Glasgow 2001 Friday, 7 September, 2001, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Giant wave hit ancient Scotland
Wave BBC
By BBC News Online's Helen Briggs

A giant wave flooded Scotland about 7,000 years ago, a scientist revealed on Friday.

The tsunami left a trail of destruction along what is now the eastern coast of the country.


It looks as if those people were happily sitting in their camp when this wave from the sea hit the camp

Professor David Smith, Coventry University
Scientists believe a landslide on the ocean floor off Storegga, south-west Norway, triggered the wave.

Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science in Glasgow, Professor David Smith said a tsunami could strike again in the area but the probability was extremely unlikely.

Radiocarbon dating of sediments taken from the coastline of eastern Scotland put the date of the event at about 5,800 BC.

At the time, Britain was joined to mainland Europe by a land bridge.

Settlers at the time would have had little warning of the disaster, scientists believe. But a scattering of tools found in the sand at a hunting camp in Inverness yields some clues.

'Very destructive'

"It looks as if those people were happily sitting in their camp when this wave from the sea hit the camp," Professor Smith of the department of Geography at Coventry University told BBC News Online.

"We're talking about two, three or four large waves followed by little ones, that would have been 5-10 metres high.

"These waves do strike with such force that they are very destructive," he added. "It's like being hit by an express train."

The research provides an opportunity to assess the hazard of tsunamis in more detail.

They occur frequently in the Pacific Ocean due to underwater earthquakes, landslides and volcanic explosions.

Long, uncertain history

Scientists hope to find more evidence of similar past tsunamis in eastern Scotland to predict the frequency of the destructive waves.

Studies of coastal sediments show that it may be possible to develop a record of past tsunamis extending back several millennia.

Dr Ted Nield, of the Geological Society of London, said: "These events have a long and uncertain time scale.

"While there is no reason for mass panic, the possibility exists that the Storegga slide will go again, and it would be imprudent to ignore that fact."

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Links to more Glasgow 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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