19 marzo 2011


"Tsunami" is made up from two Japanese words, "tsu", harbour and "nami", wave or waves ("tsunami" is singular and plural in that language).

Out at sea the energy of a tsunami is dispersed through a tall column of water and the wave may be small enough to be missed. As it approaches land the shoaling water increases the height of the wave and speeds it up until it powers ashore. Japanese fishermen at sea wouldn't notice a tsunami passing them until they returned home and found their harbours destroyed by a wave that seemed to come from nowhere.

How Tsunami Became an English Word After National Geographic Reported 1896 Disaster

On the evening of June 15, 1896, the northeast coast of Hondo, the main island of Japan, was struck by a great earthquake wave (tsunami), which was more destructive of life and property than any earthquake convulsion of this century in that empire.

Thus began an article in the September 1896 issue of National Geographic Magazine. It was a startling account 115 years ago by Eliza Ruhama Scidmore of a disaster that killed 26,975 people, and grievously wounded the 5,390 survivors.

National Public Radio reported today that this was the first use of the word tsunami in the English language.