A prehistoric Atlantis in the north sea may have been abandoned after being hit by a 5mt tsunami 8200 years ago
A huge landfall occurred on the Norwegian coast, known as the Storegga Slide just over 8,000 years ago. The event created a catastrophic tsunami, with waves almost half as high as the Statue of Liberty, that battered Britain, and other landmasses. And now the most accurate computer model ever made of the tsunami suggests that it wiped out the remaining inhabitants of a set of the low-lying landmass known as Doggerland off the coast of the UK.
The new study of scientists from Imperial College London will be discussed at the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna. They explain how devastating the tsunami would have been, using sophisticated computer modelling and paleobathymetry – a background study of underwater depths.
And they conclude it would have spelled disaster for the remaining inhabitants of Doggerland.
Dr. Jon Hill, one of the study’s authors, says to BBC, “the research we did is use advanced computer modelLing to look in the Storegga slide.
‘We’re the first to discover dissymmetry at the time, which no model has done before.
‘So we’re able to quantify what the tsunami looked like at Doggerland – no other study has predicted what the wave would have looked like.’
The huge wave that was created in the Storegga Slide occurred when a large chunk of coastal shelf 180 miles (290 km) long fell into the sea. The slide was a single event 8,200 years ago, creating a wave that travelled across the Norwegian Sea in a few hours.
Fifteen hours later, the wave would have reached Belgium and Holland. Dr Hill said it would have been equivalent to the 2011 Japanese tsunami in its scale.
Waves at Doggerland would have been five metres high, as opposed to 10 metres in the Japanese tsunami, as the land was so low-lying just a few metres above sea level.
‘It would have been completely inundated by a 5-metre wave,’ Dr Hill explains.
‘If you put a 5-metre wave towards Doggerland it would have been devastated.’ Archaeological evidence for this area is relatively sparse at the moment. So far, we are relying mostly on finds made by fishermen.
But the evidence heavily suggests it was inhabited and, according to Dr Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham who authored the book Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland, they would have ‘suffered dramatically.’
‘If we look at what the study tells us they’re talking about waves that are, in Scotland, as much as 40 metres high,’ he says.
‘The inhabitants of any low-lying areas like Doggerland would have suffered dramatically if hit by something of that size.’ Dr. Gaffney continues, however, that it is hard to know exactly the extent of habitation on Doggerland because it is very inaccessible.
Described as ‘Britain’s Atlantis’ it is now located under busy sea lanes in murky water. Thus, according to Dr. Gaffney, ‘we know little about the people who inhabited these areas.’ Dr. Hill says that modelling tsunamis of this type are important for understanding our history.
But they can also provide us with data on what we can expect from similar events in the future. Although he stresses no such event is likely to occur any time soon, the UK is susceptible to such dangers.
‘Part of the research is to find out what would happen as the oceans warm,’ he says.
‘Rising sea levels are an indicator but there’s no correlation between rising sea levels and tsunamis.’ The chances of another event on the scale of the Storegga Slide happening soon is, he says, ‘not likely to happen at all.’ Dr Gaffney adds, though, that these events are known to have occurred throughout history.
‘We sometimes think we’re a safe place to live in the UK,’ he says.
‘But sometimes there are risks even in Britain and that’s worth noting.’