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Ancient Tsunami Devastated Lake Geneva Shoreline

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the five-feet-high-and-rising dept.

Science 41

ananyo writes "In ad 563, more than a century after the Romans gave up control of what is now Geneva, Switzerland, a deadly tsunami on Lake Geneva poured over the city walls. Originating from a rock fall where the River Rhône enters at the opposite end of the lake to Geneva, the tsunami destroyed surrounding villages, people and livestock, according to two known historical accounts. Researchers now report the first geological evidence from the lake to support these ancient accounts. The findings suggest that the region would be wise to evaluate the risk today, with more than one million inhabitants living on the lake's shores, including 200,000 people in Geneva alone. The researchers cannot say exactly what created the tsunami (nothing suggests it was an earthquake), but they propose that the falling rock caused an accumulated heap of sediment in the Rhône delta to collapse. This would have launched the wave and carried the sediment from the delta to the center of the lake, where the researchers detected it. The researchers used the geological information gathered in the study to recreate how the wave might have behaved. Their model predicted that a 13-meter-high wave would have hit Lausanne 15 minutes after the rock fall, with an 8-meter-high wave reaching Geneva after 70 minutes."

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Oh, cool! (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#41808855)

Finally, something that explains what the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water" is actually about!

Re:Oh, cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41808975)

Did you by chance pay any attention to the song's lyrics?

Re:Oh, cool! (3, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#41809165)

Finally, something that explains what the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water" is actually about!

Please keep 93 Escort Wagon away from the flare locker.

Re:Oh, cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41808977)

I seriously thought about the song as soon as I read the title.

Re:Oh, cool! (1)

neminem (561346) | about 2 years ago | (#41810389)

I'm pretty sure this is the only time I've ever felt the need to say "me too", so I apologize, but: me too.

I have the bassline firmly stuck in my head now. Thanks a frelling lot, slashdot! (Well, it's sharing the space with Enter Sandman, what with them having similar basslines. One gets in my head, the other goes along with it.)

Re:Oh, cool! (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#41811565)

I'm pretty sure this is the only time I've ever felt the need to say "me too", so I apologize, but: me too.

I have the bassline firmly stuck in my head now. Thanks a frelling lot, slashdot! (Well, it's sharing the space with Enter Sandman, what with them having similar basslines. One gets in my head, the other goes along with it.)

Ha! Not long after that song was released, I got an alarm clock radio for my birthday - one with a timer plug in the back (likely intended for morning coffee brewing). Being something like 12 or 13, I had the bright idea it'd be cool to wake up to my favorite tune... at the time, Smoke on the Water. So I loaded up my cassette player, set what I thought would be a reasonable volume, plugged it into the back of the alarm clock, and went to sleep.

You would not believe how FREAKING LOUD that song was blasting first thing in the morning! I jumped up, scared half spit-less, scrambling around trying to first figure out what the HECK was going on and then trying to turn the thing off, all without being fully awake yet.

That experiment was never repeated.
 

Re:Oh, cool! (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#41814283)

Be glad you did not use Pink Floyd's Time for that.

Re:Oh, cool! (5, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41809555)

Frank Zappa was at the best place around when it happened...

Re:Oh, cool! (3, Funny)

gatesstillborg (2633899) | about 2 years ago | (#41810173)

Until some stupid with a flare gun, burned the place to the ground!

(which was later fortuitously extinguished by said tsunami)

Re:Oh, cool! (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41810231)

Wikipedia is your friend. [wikipedia.org]

The lyrics of the song tell a true story: on 4 December 1971 Deep Purple had set up camp in Montreux, Switzerland to record an album using a mobile recording studio (rented from the Rolling Stones and known as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studioâ"referred to as the "Rolling truck Stones thing" and "the mobile" in the song lyrics) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as "the gambling house" in the song lyric). On the eve of the recording session a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert was held in the casino's theatre. In the middle of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on "King Kong", the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line.[7][8] The resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers' equipment. The "smoke on the water" that became the title of the song (credited to bass guitarist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he suddenly woke from a dream a few days later) referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel. The "Funky Claude" running in and out is referring to Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival who helped some of the audience escape the fire.

Claude Nobs (2006), the "Funky Claude" mentioned in the songLeft with an expensive mobile recording unit and no place to record, the band was forced to scout the town for another place to set up. One promising venue (found by Nobs) was a local theatre called The Pavilion, but soon after the band had loaded in and started working/recording, the nearby neighbours took offence at the noise, and the band was only able to lay down backing tracks for one song (based on Blackmore's riff and temporarily named Title nÂ1), before the local police shut them down.

Finally, after about a week of searching, the band rented the nearly-empty Montreux Grand Hotel and converted its hallways and stairwells into a makeshift recording studio, where they laid down most of the tracks for what would become their most commercially successful album, Machine Head.

Re:Oh, cool! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41810245)

"In ad 563, more than a century after the Romans gave up control of what is now Geneva, Switzerland, a deadly tsunami on Lake Geneva poured over the city walls.

Pics or it didn't happen.

Not only that, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41808865)

some time later, there was smoke on the water.

What caused it? (0)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#41808899)

Was it an earthquake or did something fall into the lake?

Re:What caused it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41808955)

I think Gary Gygax dropped an enormous d20 into the lake.

Re:What caused it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809085)

That would have a DC of at least 40 against charisma to convince me of that one.

Re:What caused it? (4, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#41811563)

Base DC is 10, really weird story so +20, DC would be 30, not 40.

You'd also add their Bluff skills to the roll, you'd add a d20 roll, 30, and your Sense Motive to see who wins the opposed check. Sense Motive is Wisdom-based, not Charisma based. Some feats, notably Keen Intellect, allow the swapping of another stat, but you would still use Sense Motive.

Re:What caused it? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41809021)

The researchers cannot say exactly what created the tsunami (nothing suggests it was an earthquake), but they propose that the falling rock caused an accumulated heap of sediment in the Rhône delta to collapse.

Right there in the summary.

Re:What caused it? (0)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#41809033)

It was Moses parting the red sea, and somehow it affected that region.

Re:What caused it? (3, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | about 2 years ago | (#41809041)

Duh, it's in the first sentence.

"In ad 563, more than a century after the Romans gave up control of what is now Geneva

It was clearly caused by the Romans leaving Geneva.

Re:What caused it? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 2 years ago | (#41809717)

They were just lazy.

Re:What caused it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809057)

Was it an earthquake or did something fall into the lake?

You didn't even read the summary:

The researchers cannot say exactly what created the tsunami (nothing suggests it was an earthquake), but they propose that the falling rock caused an accumulated heap of sediment in the Rhône delta to collapse.

Re:What caused it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809091)

Try reading the summary (or TFA).

The researchers cannot say exactly what created the tsunami (nothing suggests it was an earthquake), but they propose that the falling rock caused an accumulated heap of sediment in the Rhône delta to collapse.

Highlights:

nothing suggests it was an earthquake

they propose that the falling rock

Re:What caused it? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 2 years ago | (#41810521)

Some fat guy took a dump at the lake, and then, you know, shit happened.

I hear (1)

Havokmon (89874) | about 2 years ago | (#41809031)

it reached all the way to the Sugar Shack!

Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (5, Informative)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | about 2 years ago | (#41809215)

The history of this event is actually quite interesting in itself. There are even ancient writers that describe it. One was Bishop Marius, the bishop of Avenches and later Lausanne (547-594), who was actually neighbor to this event.

In this year, the enormous mountain of Tauredunum in the territory of the Valais, collapsed so suddenly that it engulfed the neighboring fortress as well as the villages and all the inhabitants thereof. The lake was so engorged that along the length of 60 miles and width of 20 miles on both sides of the river there was great loss of life in the ancient towns, both of man and beast. It destroyed also many sanctuaries with the people and violently destroyed the bridge in Geneva, the mills and even penetrated into the city where many people died

(Quick translation from P.C. Basilii anno XXII. Ind. XI) What the mountain 'Tauredunum' corresponds too in modern geographical terms is somewhat disputed.

Re:Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809353)

Thanks for posted this information. It is fascinating!

Re:Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809463)

I don't speak Latin, but Tauredunum literally sounds like "bull shit", although I have no idea what "dunum" is, Taur is bull, right? Maybe dunum is just gras, pasture, or field though. So maybe an unstable pasture on a hillside fell into the lake. It may have been geologicly unstable sediment that had been uplifted, or it might have been unstable due to being cleared for grazing.

Re:Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (5, Informative)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | about 2 years ago | (#41809893)

The name of the place is disputed precisely on etymological grounds. If you look at the other ancient names of cities in the valley of the Rhone: Acaune, Tarnade, Octans, Ocotdurum, Sedunum, the origin of the name actually is celtic or gaulois rather than Roman. *Taur, *Tur, or *Tor is actually a synonym for *Alp or *Penn which designates a peak or high place. *Dun or *Dunum means an elevated place next to water according to some. Thus the name means a peak or castle which is elevated near water. Others say that *Taur rather means passage or entrance (Thor or Thüre in German), or gorge, in Latin clusa. Some then say that it is equivalent to Porte du Scex or Fort de la Cluse.

In any case the area was quite strategic for the Romans, and the passage of St. Maurice was not very far away. It must have been a disaster of untold scale in a very critical region of the Roman empire - most of the traffic out of Italy would have passed through these regions (Martigny is not far away, once a fort city of the Emperor, the Theban legion was massacred not far from there). In a certain way this disaster probably spelled the end of an already weakened Roman civilization north of Italy by the fact that it destroyed most of the service towns along the way to the two major pathways into and out of Italy.

In any case it was a big deal. The Swiss are still talking about it.

Re:Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (3, Informative)

Milharis (2523940) | about 2 years ago | (#41811537)

By ad 563, there was no West Roman Empire anymore, but your arguments still stand for whoever controlled the region at that time.

Re:Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (2)

jcdr (178250) | about 2 years ago | (#41820203)

St-Maurice is 20 km away and the Rhone is here 25 m higher than at Port-Valais, the more likely location of the event. This make very unlikely that St-Maurice was affected by the event.

The article is focused on the geologic simulation finding, but there is others papers on the press here based on the ongoing archaeologic finding caused by the construction of a new bridge. There found a tomb in a near vertical orientation, indicating a massive event here.

What is not clear is how so much material could have been flattered to the point that it's so difficult to locate after only 1500 years. Is the region there is others materials deposit around the Rhone that have been linked to events far far older and there are still very visible. An example is the Bois-Noir location near St-Maurice or the the region immediately before the city of Sierre.

Near Port-Valais, the only visible massive stack of material is located at the forest abovef Le Bouveret city. The mountains is very sharp and fragile at this point and in case of a massive fall of materials, a large part will go directly into the see. This is not the location of the tomb and cannot explain the temporary lac formed after the event. But the location of the tom and the likely location of the temporary lac are precisely on the other side of the mountain that make the massive stack of material at Le Bouveret.

So the most likely scenario is that the event was that all the top of the mountain collapsed, the materials was split in two parts that each fall into there side of the base of the mountain still visible today. The biggest part that fall at the Le Bouveret location can explain both the tsunami and the massive stack of material still visible today. The smaller part that fall in the tomb direction caused a big temporary lac that folded the region and maybe caused a second tsunami when it have break. The temporary lac could have sustained long enough to flattered the materials, making it invisible today. But I don't think this is the case, because rock are unaffected by a temporary lac. I suppose that at the tomb location the material was mostly mud. So the rock at this side was retained just above the base of the mountain but this leaked a large amount of mud. Coincidentally, there is a big stack of material located at the half high of the mountain just above the tomb location. The actual path of the Rhone could indicate how far the mud was spreading at this time.

Re:Actually several candidates for "Tauredunum" (1)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | about 2 years ago | (#41827595)

Thank you for the informative post. I only meant that St. Maurice was close, but as you say it was probably not touched by the actual tsunami it certainly felt the effects in so far as such an event has large social implications as well.

Swiss geography and geology is very interesting.

In more recent times, at the scenic Vajont Dam (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41809307)

In 1963, a landslide into the reservoir behind the Vajont Dam caused a massive wave to jump the dam, causing massive damage and casualties: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajont_Dam [wikipedia.org] .

So worrying about stuff falling into lakes in Switzerland, is probably a good idea.

Re:In more recent times, at the scenic Vajont Dam (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#41810209)

In 1963, a landslide into the reservoir behind the Vajont Dam caused a massive wave to jump the dam, causing massive damage...

Maybe they should stop using giant enemy crabs to hold up their dams.

Re:In more recent times, at the scenic Vajont Dam (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 2 years ago | (#41810813)

> So worrying about stuff falling into lakes in Switzerland, is probably a good idea.

This probably applies to non-swiss lakes as well.

Lake Nyos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41812911)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_nyos
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/26/africa-lake-kivu-co2-gas

Must have been Chuck Norris (0)

vikingpower (768921) | about 2 years ago | (#41809523)

shat in the lake...

Landslide tsunami potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41809981)

All the more reason to keep an eye on Cumbre Vieja at the Canary Islands. That could be leveraged against the USA.

glacial tsunamis in Lituya Bay, Alaska (2)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 2 years ago | (#41810671)

Every few decades, it gets much worse in Lituya Bay [wikipedia.org] , Alaska.
Also BBC Nature [youtube.com] : Mega Tsunami - Alaskan Super Wave - Amazing Survival

Re:glacial tsunamis in Lituya Bay, Alaska (3, Informative)

rHBa (976986) | about 2 years ago | (#41811831)

Doesn't have to have been triggered by an earthquake, normal glacial movement can trigger a sub-glacial lake to burst it's banks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacial_lake_outburst_flood [wikipedia.org]

Could occur again (1)

krouic (460022) | about 2 years ago | (#41810679)

The biggest hazard for the lake Geneva (Leman lake actually) would be from the various large dams in the upper Rhône valley. Should one of them collapse, it would be ad 563 all over again.

Re:Could occur again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41814149)

There's a chance of it happening in Harrison Lake in British Columbia as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megatsunami#British_Columbia

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