Meteor-Caused Giant
Tsunami Hit Australia
In 18th Century
Form Discovery News Briefs
Australia may have been hit with a meteor only 200 years ago, in a catastrophe still recounted in Aboriginal legends, scientists say.
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 says.
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.

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