(A true story about two girls in Hawaii)
Monday, April 1, 1946, was just like any other school day in Hilo (Hawaii) for Vivian Aoki (18 years) and Matilda Mooney (17 years). Vivian headed to school first with her younger brother James. Matilda was still getting ready at her apartment with her other younger brothers, aunt, uncle, and grandparents.
No one in either family knew that thousands of miles away a huge underwater earthquake had occurred. Giant waves 115 feet high were speeding across the Pacific Ocean at approximately 70 miles per hour.
“Our school was facing the water front. I had reached school earlier. Suddenly, I saw the water recede at the shoreline. The kids ran to collect the fish on the water’s edge. Then I saw an unbelievably humungous wave starting to build far out in the ocean and race straight towards our school. My heart pounded heavily in my chest, as I screamed and ran to get to higher grounds. But the water was too fast and caught up with me. The wave swirled around the school and pulled back to the sea carrying many kids along. I shouted for my brother, who couldn’t be found anywhere.
Later I spotted him spluttering water and mud, and walking slowly toward the school. He had clung to a palm tree and was saved miraculously. I took James to the hospital to get water and mud pumped out of his stomach.”
In another family, Matilda’s mother had left for work. She narrates:
“I heard my landlord rushing up the stairs yelling ‘Tsunami! Tsunami!’ A giant wave followed him up the staircase.
I embraced my two younger brothers, but the wave crashed into the building, smashing it down. The next thing I knew, I was under water in a spooky dark tunnel, which had once been a hallway; my brothers, grandmother and aunt were swept away.
I was about to drown, when somebody pulled me up and rescued me. I was taken to another place for medical relief. I found my mom there, who couldn’t recognize me as I was terribly wounded. That was the worst day of my life.”
Facts about Tsunami
- Tsunami is a Japanese word that means “harbour wave.”
- Tsunamis do the most damage in harbours.
- They are also called tidal waves, though they are not caused by tides.
- It is a wave of water that sometimes occurs after earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or underwater landslides.
- Not all tsunamis are large or destructive.
- If you were out to sea, a tsunami could pass under your boat and you would hardly notice. That’s because the ocean bottom is very deep.
- As the wave gets closer to land, the ocean becomes shallower and begins to cause the wave to crest.
- A tsunami is usually made up of several waves moving together.
- The distance from the crest of one wave to another wave can be as much as 100 miles.
- If a large wave hits the shore, the next one can follow after an hour or later.
Adapted from “Oceans” by Discovery Channel
Contributed by Amal Hanif Majeed