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OU on the BBC: Timewatch - Britain's Forgotten Floods

Updated Thursday, 25th September 2008

Professors Simon Haslett and Ted Bryant have come across evidence for what they believe was a forgotten British tsunami. They think that The Bristol Channel flood of 1607 – which took thousands of lives – was caused not by a storm but by a tsunami. They presented their case in Timewatch: Killer Wave.

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Graphic impact of Tsunami hitting Britain Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

Tsunamis are among the most destructive forces known to Man – they can arrive without warning, and devastate entire regions. Until the Asian disaster of 2004, most of us in Britain probably didn’t know what a tsunami was – and we still think that they are one thing we don’t need to worry about in Europe. But Simon and Ted's research gives a different picture.

Intrigued by their investigations into 1607, they decided to delve deeper into the archives. In Britain’s Forgotten Floods, Timewatch follows Simon and Ted as they search the British coastline for evidence of what they believe may be at least four more British tsunamis.

Simon and Ted’s work remains highly controversial. To weigh up the evidence, historian and scientist Vanessa Collingridge (presenter of Radio 4’s Making History), joins them on their journey. Vanessa’s quest is to decide for herself whether she believes they are right – and to discover if the risk of tsunamis in Europe is bigger than most of us think.

As well as investigating potential British tsunamis, Vanessa discovers how and why tsunamis are created – and why they can be such an extraordinarily devastating force. She also looks back to the Lisbon tsunami of 1755 – an almost forgotten disaster that had a profound effect on Britain, and changed the course of European history.

Further reading

A Disastrous History of Britain: Chronicles of War, Riot, Plague and Flood John Withington, History Press

Historic Storms of the North Sea, British Isles, and Northwest Europe,
Hubert Lamb, Cambridge University Press

Discover more

Want to know more about the science of tsunamis - and other natural phenomena that shape our world? Why not explore the Open University course volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis?

First broadcast: Friday 20 Jan 2006 on BBC TWO





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