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Place a brick at one end of a large container (inside the container). Elevate one end of a second brick so that it just rests on the first one, then fill the container with water until there is about 2 inches of water above the leaning brick. The bricks represent two blocks of rock beneath the earth. The movement of blocks can sometimes cause earthquakes.

So we'll make an earthquake.

With a small-diameter stick, gently push the leaning brick off the other one. You will realize how a similar movement under the ocean might cause a wave.

Such a wave is called a tsunami (tsoo-NAH-me), a Japanese word meaning "big wave in the harbor."

The encyclopedia says tsunami (seismic sea wave) is "a series of catastrophic ocean waves generated by earthquakes, volcanic eruption, or landslides beneath the sea. In the open ocean, tsunamis may have wavelengths of up to several hundred miles, but heights of less than 3 feet. Because this ratio is so large, tsunamis can go undetected until they approach shallow waters along a coast. Their height as they crash upon the shore mostly depends on the geometry of the submarine topography offshore, but they can be as high as 100 feet, and cause severe damage and loss of life."

In 1955 or whenever it was (!), there was a huge earthquake in Alaska. It caused much loss of life and great property damage. The news media told us that there would be a tsunami off the coast of northern California a couple of days later. Many stupid people drove to Crescent City to watch the tsunami. Several of them saw it as they were being washed out to sea by the tsunami. They probably didn't like that very much, but we will never know for sure, because they didn't come back. There are some events that are best read about rather than experienced directly.

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