- Australia may have been hit with a meteor
only 200 years ago, in a catastrophe still recounted in Aboriginal legends,
- Since 70 percent of the Earth is covered
with water, when meteors hit, they usually hit the oceans, causing huge
waves, known as tsunamis. Now researchers in Australia have found strong
evidence that a tsunami struck the coast of New South Wales in the late
18th Century -- and a meteor is seen as the most likely culprit, London's
Daily Telegraph reports.
- Professor Ted Bryant, a geologist at
the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, has analyzed sediment
and boulders along the coast, and says they're consistent with a tsunami
hundreds of feet high, striking at a speed of more than 200 miles per hour.
- They have also found evidence for tsunamis
hitting other sites around Australia. Bryant says: "The geomorphic
signatures of such events have been found on Lord Howe Island in the mid-Tasman
Sea, along the north Queensland coast and along the northwest coast of
Western Australia. At the latter location, there is good evidence that
a recent wave swept more than 20 miles inland, topping 200-foot hills more
than a mile from the coast."
- The events gel with a legend still recounted
by Aborigines, which speaks of a "white wave" falling out of
the sky and devastating their culture. Until now, historians had linked
the legend with the arrival of white settlers in the 1780s.
- But according to Bryant, a vast tsunami
would give the impression of a white wave falling out of the sky. While
some researchers claimed that the tsunami was caused by a giant submarine
mud-slide off the coast, others believe this cannot account for its size.
Instead, they argue a meteor impact is to blame.
- Duncan Steel, a meteor impact expert
at Spaceguard Australia, Adelaide, cites evidence now emerging that links
the Australian tsunami to a swarm of meteors that have struck the Earth
many times during recorded history. Known as the Taurids, the swarm has
been linked to a meteor storm detected in 1975 by instruments left on the
Apollo missions, a 1908 impact in Siberia, and an account of an apparent
impact on the Moon recorded by a Canterbury monk in 1178, the Telegraph
- Steel says: "The Taurid impacts
go through peaks and troughs over centuries. The dating of the tsunamis
so far found is broadly consistent with this cycle. If one struck today
it would cause billions of dollars of damage, and kill many, many people."
He added that the evidence linking meteor impacts to tsunamis underlined
the importance of taking the cosmic threat seriously.