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Giant Wall of Watery Doom

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"They say the wave was 400 meters high when it hit the cities! Three billion dead, Gendo!"
Kozo Fuyutsuki, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Water, in large amounts and at anything above a modest velocity, is very dangerous stuff. Storm surges and flash floods claim hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars in damage every year, while major disasters such as dam collapses and tsunamis can cause widespread destruction.

When someone steps out of their house and sees a 200-foot-high wall of the stuff stretching away to the horizon and moving at a deceptively patient pace toward them it usually results in an intense Oh, Crap! moment.

Inversion of Soft Water (or an aversion, as even being buried by an avalanche of fluffy pillows would likely be quite lethal if there were a few million tons of them moving at 70 miles an hour). Can occur when a character who makes a splash really pushes himself to the limit.

Perspective and point of view can play with this trope. If you are out on the open ocean, a wave only needs to be big enough to capsize your vessel to fully qualify. If you can haul your boat on a trailer behind the family automobile, a 10 foot / 3 meter wave can be a major problem. If you are on a cruise ship or an aircraft carrier, a wave big enough to qualify for this trope could wipe out entire small coastal villages once it hits land.


For a slower, but just as dramatic, form of watery doom, see Rising Water, Rising Tension.


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  • One commercial for Jameson Irish Whiskey had the namesake founder of the distillery smash open a dam and use the ensuing flood, led by a massive wall of water, to extinguish a fire that was consuming a town and threatening the distillery.

    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • In the beginning of the Davy Back Fight Arc, a school of Sea Monkeys (In this series, "Sea Monkeys" are giant fish with monkey faces), stir up a giant wave that the Straw Hats need to escape.
    • In Water 7, we learn that an annual tidal wave hits the island once a year, and submerges the outer districts in sea water. In the story, this particular wave is apparently so strong that the mere lapping damages the town. When the Straw Hats have to follow the CP9 to Enies Lobby for Robin, they have to brave this wave.
    • Whitebeard's first action in the Paramount War is to generate two of these with his earthquake powers. Aokiji stops the waves by freezing them with his ice powers.
  • Scrapped Princess: When the High Council elected to use the Ginnungagap spell, they plunked it right in the center of the ocean, directly atop the SKID. The sheer immensity of its Area of Effect and the shockwave generated by it, resulted in a mega-tsunami that devastated the vast majority of the continental coast!
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, in the mission to rescue Allelujah, Ptolemaios II crashed into the sea creating a wall of water that caused quite substantial damage to the A-Laws base.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion when Adam/Antarctica blew up during Second Impact, a "ripple" almost a quarter-mile (four-hundred meters) tall in places spreads outward, wiping out every coastal city in the southern hemisphere, and continues to wreak havoc in the northern. Pity we didn't get to see it.
  • The mermaids in Hekikai No AION use tsunamis to hunt down humans for their psyche.
  • The climax of Pokémon Heroes has Latios and Latias stopping one of these from destroying Altomare.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku created several of these, as well as earthquakes, around the world while powering up to SSJ3. Apparently he never thought about the consequences of his actions.
  • The last thing Shuji sees before the world apparently ends in Saikano is a gigantic tidal wave sweeping away his home city and destroying everything he ever knew. Chise attempts to protect him from it with her ultimate weapon form, and apparently succeeds since Shuji survives the end of the world.

    Comic Books 
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: In The Dreamtime Duck of Never-Never, Scrooge runs away from a massive wave in the Australian desert.
  • Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk once caused one of these when throwing down in the middle of the ocean.
    • Namor also inundated New York with one of these once by having a bunch of whales line up and flip their tails in unison. Comics, everybody!
  • Generally whenever incredibly super strong characters such as the Hulk fight someone in a large body of water, this is the result.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: When the Black Moon leaves its orbit to crash into the world, the moon's gravitational pull starts to cause earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and massive tidal waves. The old naval Empire of Tharque is destroyed by the mother of all tsunamis.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Themyscira's fall causes a huge tsunami. Diana is able to prevent it from reaching land but at the cost of most of the Lansanarian Disk's functions, most importantly it's ability to act as a dome shield for Themyscira.
  • In Worlds Collide, Reality Warper Rift casually tosses Paris Island from the Milestone Universe to the ocean towards Metropolis in the DC Universe. Both Superman and the Blood Syndicate try to figure out a way to stop the massive wave resulting from it from ravaging the already-ravaged Metropolis even worse.
  • The Infinity Gauntlet: Fallout from the cosmic battles against Thanos causes one of these to destroy Atlantic City, NJ.

    Film — Animated 
  • Played for Laughs in The Iron Giant, when the Giant creates one by doing a cannonball into a lake.
  • A total solar eclipse triggers one at the end of the "Rite of Spring" segment of Fantasia.
  • The Land Before Time V when the characters reach the island followed by an earth shake.
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings, Kubo's mother calms one in the prologue with her magic. Unfortunately there was another one right behind her which causes her head injury and almost kills her and baby Kubo.
  • This nearly happens to Arendelle at the climax of Frozen II after Anna destroys the dam to break a curse and address the damage the dam was doing after Anna's grandfather built it to weaken another nation and to subjugate them under his rule. Arendelle has been evacuated first, but the wave still poses a threat to the town structures. Fortunately, Elsa appears in the nick of time to freeze it before it hits land.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Impossible is entirely about this, namely the the tsunami that happened on December 26, 2004.
  • The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring: Arwen makes the Bruinen river rise against the Black Riders with an incantation to splash them away; for added awesomeness, the waves are shaped into horses. The Black Riders have an Oh, Crap! and try to run away from it, to no avail. In this case it's actually a "Giant Wall Of Watery Salvation" to the good guys, especially Frodo.
  • The Poseidon Adventure, and its remake Poseidon, feature a luxury liner getting struck by a massive rogue wave and capsizing.
  • The climax of The Perfect Storm has the Andrea Gail encounter a monstrous rogue wave, flipping her end over end and sinking her.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou??, with the sheriff's eventual demise.
  • For one of the stunts in Jackass, Johnny Knoxville (with diving mask, snorkel, and flippers) stands in front of a massive water tank perched in front of a ramp. The camera looks up at him from below, and over the course of three seconds he's standing there, water rushes over the camera, and when it clears he's completely vanished.
  • The Abyss: At the climax in the director's cut, the undersea creatures create gigantic walls of water near major coastal cities as a warning to humans to stop warfare.
  • The Guns of Navarone: The heroes crash their ship into the coast of Navarone in a storm. As they're trying to unload it, they see a huge wall of water approaching. They desperately try to get away before it hits.
  • In Deep Impact, this provides an Obi-Wan Moment for several main characters.
  • The Day After Tomorrow has a 40 foot tall storm surge swamp Manhattan.
  • In 2012, several waves are created that are mere kilometers high and cause additional damage to already destroyed places globally; one such tsunami manages to travel all the way across India and still retain enough height to flood out the Himalayas, i.e. an 8 km high wave.
    • Not quite. In the movie it's clearly stated to be around 1.5 km tall, and it's later shown that Mount Everest and many of the other tall mountains in the Himalayas are far above the water level. The reason it manages to overtop several shorter mountains is because the continental plate that the Himalayas rested on sunk several thousand meters in the preceding earthquakes.
  • Wrath Of The Ocean
  • The Wave (2015) features a massive rockslide triggering an 80 meter (300 foot) wave headed straight for a Norwegian town named Geiranger, with the citizens having less than ten minutes to get the hell out.
    • Truth in Television, as the rockslide will inevitably happen in real life. Scientists have estimated that the real wave will be even bigger.
  • In The Mummy Returns, Imhotep controls the water in a canyon river, turning it into a giant water wall with his face on it, to chase down the protagonists in their dirigible.
  • The Last Airbender features one of these.
  • The Last Wave
  • Point Break (1991) has Swayze playing a surfer robs banks to fund his search for the largest wave ever. It turns out to be large no other surfer goes near it. He does, as a way of committing suicide rather than be jailed for the robberies.
  • The page-image is from the 2009 South Korean disaster flick titled Haeundae, the name of the city the movie is set in. In English, it is simply Tidal Wave.
  • Godzilla displaces so much water in Godzilla (2014) that he kills hundreds of people in a massive tsunami just from rising out of the ocean.
  • Miller's planet in Interstellar is located close to a black hole. Given that the planet is not perfectly spherical, and is 'tidally locked' to the black hole, this causes huge tidal waves to circle the planet as they lag behind the planet's rotation. Waves so huge that the protagonists initially mistake them for mountains.
  • San Andreas features a giant wave inundating San Francisco after a 9.6 earthquake strikes it. Ray and Emma, plus a few hundred other people, figure out that in order to survive, they must travel over the wave in their boats before it crests. But then, there's a cargo ship looming over the wave to add to the difficulty.
  • In Bait 3D, a tsunami strands the characters in a flooded Australian grocery store, along with a Threatening Shark that was swept into the market by the seawater.
  • The Syfy Channel Original Movie Malibu Shark Attack uses the same device to trap some victims in a shark-besieged lifeguard shack.
  • Adrift (2018): When they get caught in the storm, Richard and Tami are hit with a giant wave that flips the boat completely over.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981) depicts Poseidon unleashing the Kraken to cause one of these upon a coastal city that had angered Zeus.
  • Supervolcano early in the film, a precursor earthquake to the eruption causes a landslide that in turn causes a flood that kills nine people.

  • The Big Wave is about the destruction of a seaside Japanese village by a tsunami.
  • Discworld, The Wee Free Men: While trying to escape from Fairyland with her little brother Wentworth and the Baron's son Roland, Tiffany and the Feegles end up in a dream of the seaside. The Queen of the Elves tries to get them by manipulating the dream to create an enormous tidal wave, and while Wentworth and the Feegles are stunned with shock, Tiffany barely escapes from the dream with Roland in tow. Fortunately, the Feegles and Wentworth show up, alive but slightly damp, in time for the final confrontation with the Queen.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In the short story "The Liar, the Glitch and the War Zone", Missy destroys Venice's flood barrier with bombs that phase away sections of it to create one so enough matter is sent through a temporal rift that she can use it to power up and repair her broken TARDIS. Fortunately, this allows for the Reset Button to be pressed so it never happened.
  • In The Eve of April 20, a neo-Nazi organisation holds a rally beneath a dam as a suitably imposing backdrop before launching a coup, which is foiled when the protagonist blows not the dam, but the cliffs of the lake behind it, causing water to displace over the dam and wash away the Day of the Jackboot before it happens.
  • The Fifth Wave: The 2nd Wave consisted of these. The Others dropped massive rods onto the Earth's fault lines, triggering massive earthquakes and tsunamis that wiped out the world's coastal cities and killed three billion people.
  • Footfall shows the results of a giant asteroid intentionally dropping into the Indian Ocean, with pretty much all of the surrounding coasts completely scoured by the resultant wave.
  • In Catherine Marshall's novel Julie, half of the heroine's hometown is destroyed by a wall of water resulting from a dam failure.
  • In the Dramatic Audio version of Soul Harvest from the Left Behind book series, one of the Christians on board a cruise liner in the middle of the ocean barely has time to lead the people in a prayer of salvation before a giant wave of water caused from the impact of a giant mountain crashing into the seas (one of God's Trumpet Judgments) reaches the ship.
  • In the book Lucifer's Hammer a giant tidal wave created by the impact of the Hammer wipes out Los Angeles, and presumably other west coast cities that the reader doesn't see.
  • In The Man Who Could Work Miracles by HG Wells, the world stops revolving. And the sea doesn't.
  • In Mother of Storms by John Barnes, tens of millions are killed by storm surges.
  • At the beginning of Nation, a tsunami caused by a nearby volcanic explosion wipes out most of the island.
  • Old Kingdom:
    • The primary danger of the Third Precinct of Death are the massive, powerful waves, which nothing, Dead or alive, can resist. The spells that allow passage to and from the precinct temporarily halt the waves, but there's a reason people crossing do so at a dead run.
    • At the climax of Goldenhand, Chlorr's Final Death causes the spell-net she created to hold back the Greenwash River to fail, causing one to come down on the Greenwash Bridge and the participants in the battle raging on the river banks and riverbed. The bridge's deck is washed out, and many of the combatants, largely members of the barbarian tribes, but also one of the Trained Bands from the Kingdom, drown.
  • The Poseidon Adventure, about an ocean liner that capsizes after being hit by one of these. The author, Paul Gallico, was inspired by his own real-life experience of being aboard the Queen Mary when she was hit by a rogue wave in 1942 and nearly turned over.
  • Rogue Wavenote  by Boyd Morrison is about a meteor impact in the central Pacific which creates a series of tsunamis that devastate Hawaii.
  • In Frank Schätzing's Der Schwarm/The Swarm (not to be confused with the film or trope of the same name), the Yrr cause one of these by triggering a huge underwater landslide in the North Sea and pretty much wrecking the whole of coastal northern Europe.
  • They had this during a typhoon in Silent Ship, Silent Sea.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
  • In Sharon Creech's The Wanderer, the crew encounters a wave like this during a horrific storm. It's important later because Sophie remembers the wave as having been black, when according to everyone else, it was white. Sophie is flashing back to another such storm that she survived, but which killed her biological parents, though Sophie has no conscious memory of this.
  • Young Wizards: Used in an attempt to Murder the Hypotenuse in A Wizard of Mars, but Nita stops it in mid-air and threatens to send it back through a portal at the girl who just tried to kill her. And the city she's in.
  • Happens multiple times in Stephen Baxter's Flood, as water released from below the surface of the ocean eventually submerges the entire planet. A giant tsunami finished off most of the UK, and towards the end of the book, the lack of dry land led to the formation of a giant tide-powered wave that would continuously circle the planet.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bering Sea Gold: To a sub-25 foot pontoon boat suction dredge, 2 foot waves can be a problem. 5 foot waves can swamp you and a 10 foot wave can capsize or even sink your dredge. To the 100-plus foot bucket dredges, it takes slightly rougher seas to convince the captain to pull the plug and make the 2 mile run back to port.
  • CSI: Spells doom for a Victim of the Week trapped in a storm drain during a flash flood in "Down the Drain".
  • One episode of CSI: Miami had Florida hit by a tsunami while some bank robbers took advantage of the confusion to swipe a fortune in gold bullion.
  • Deadliest Catch: Once per season per boat in red king crab season, once per episode per boat in opilio season.
    • Special mention goes to the Aleutian Ballad, which got smacked by a 60-foot rogue wave in 2005 and nearly capsized.
    • The Science Channel show Mysteries of the Missing episode "Ghost Ship of the Desert" spends the majority of the episode discussing rogue waves. The producers used Deadliest Catch footage and interview footage with Time Bandit's Captain Hillstrand to highlight the rogue wave's obvious hazards.
  • Entourage: A moment showing one of these about to hit a pier, dwarfing the hero as he runs toward it, is about all we get to see of the film version of Aquaman starring Vincent Chase.
  • This is Weather Wizard's chosen method to destroy Central City in The Flash (2014). And it really was unstoppable; the only reason the city wasn't destroyed is that the Flash accidentally broke the time barrier and returned to the previous night when trying to create a wind shield against the tsunami by running faster than ever.
  • Hawaii Five-0 New Series Season 1 Episode "Kai e'e". The Tsunami warning system is taken over and a false warning sent out. This is going to be used by the bad guys to facilitate their robbing the police headquarters.
  • In the Hallmark version of Jason and the Argonauts the god Poseidon has a little fun with the crew by pretending to be an island and then standing up to create a tidal wave which destroys most of the ship. The only reason they survive is probably because Zeus blows them onto the Isle of Lemnos where they get repairs.
  • Krakatoa: The Last Days. Realising that the volcanic eruption will cause a tsunami, Captain Lindeman ties himself to the wheel and steers his ship into the wave. The ship survives, but those landward of the wave are not so lucky.
  • One of the first season episodes of Sliders ended with the group reaching a San Francisco which is just about to get hit by a wave.
  • The end of the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Eye" has one hit the floating city.
  • Happens in Ultraman Leo complete with people getting drowned and covered in debris as the wave levels buildings.
  • Happens fairly often on Whale Wars; one 30 foot rogue wave in particular struck the left side of the Brigitte Bardot and nearly snapped the trimaran's port-side pontoon clean off!

  • During the Matthew Good song Last Parade, specifically the lyrics
    Like we're taking pictures of a tidal wave
    On the shore, grinnin', a hundred feet away
  • In "Suddenly There Is a Tidal Wave", the final song on The Wayward Bus LP by The Magnetic Fields, the chorus goes:
    The boys talk like they own the world
    The women keep their stupid diaries
    But suddenly there's a tidal wave
    And everything is sucked out to sea
Later in the song the chorus is repeated, twice, back-to-back. Three seconds later the music abruptly stops. (No similarity to a Three Second Silence.) Then—if you happen to be listening to the two-fer CD The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees—enjoy four-and-a-half minutes of silence, followed by the songs on the Distant Plastic Trees LP. Perhaps (analogous with "hidden tracks"), this qualifies as a HiddenAlbum?
  • Was The Wayward Bus ever released, standalone, in any format? If not—and, let's say you're listening to The Wayward Bus—then you can be certain Distant Plastic Trees will follow.
  • The band Great Big Sea took their name from an old Newfoundland folk song about the 1929 tsunami described below.
  • Daniel Amos' "(Near Sighted Girl with Approaching) Tidal Wave", from their album Horrendous Disc. Most people on the beach survived by fleeing, but the girl in the title ignored the warning signs and wasn't so lucky.
    It's a tidal wave
    It's a watery grave
    She really tried to swim
    She couldn't in the end.
  • Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (see below)

  • Time Machine (Zaccaria) combines this with Time Crash, as the collision of Past and Future eras is represented by two tidal waves colliding to form a massive waterspout that dwarfs mountains.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Happens in Chrono Trigger, as a result of a floating chain of islands crashing into the sea. Results are about as catastrophic as you'd think.
    • In Chrono Cross, you visit the Dead Sea, a city that was frozen in time as it was being destroyed by these.
  • Strago's "Clean Sweep" lore in Final Fantasy VI takes this form.
    • As does the summon Bismark in the same game, and possibly some forms of Leviathan.
      • Also the "El Nino" result of Mog's Water Rondo dance, which is the strongest water-based attack in the game.
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions: Deadpool uses bombs to trigger three of those in a row in Ultimate Spidey's second level. You have to web-sling towards them across a floating obstacle course in order to reach high ground.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: One of the bosses will produce some moai heads, then follow it up with a massive tidal wave. Make sure you don't destroy them.
  • In Pokémon, the moves Surf and Muddy Water both use this trope.
  • Happens twice in the World of Warcraft Cataclysm cinematic, at Booty Bay and Thousand Needles.
  • One stage in Donkey Kong Country Returns has you taking shelter from these at regular intervals. Being exposed will kill you.
  • Tsunamis are one of the earlier and constant threats in From Dust.
  • This is one of a few reasons not to hurt the Chao - Chaos will get angry and cause one of these. The ancient echidnas learned that the hard way.
  • This is how the aptly named Tidal Wave spell looks in the 2D games of the Tales Series.
  • In the first level of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, giant tidal waves repeatedly rear up in the background while you're jumping across a series of platforms. Although the waves don't actually affect Arthur directly, they will wash away large parts of the terrain, killing you instantly if you're not standing on a "safe" part.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, one of Balthier's Quickenings is a tsunami.
  • At one point in Out of This World, Lester has to run from a watery Advancing Wall of Doom.
  • Warcraft III: The Crushing Wave spell sends a huge wall of water into enemies, though the animation for it is entirely 2D.
  • League of Legends: Nami's ultimate, Tidal Wave, practically summons this trope. It won't kill, mostly... but will set up a lot of it.
  • Lord Monarch: In story mode of sega version there are couple of stages where lower levels of land will be flooded at certain day.
  • In War of the Monsters, throwing enough objects at the UFO in the Tsunopolis stage will trigger a tsunami that will engulf the map. The water can be avoided by flying on climbing on buildings.
  • Anno 2070's Deep Ocean expansion pack introduces tsunamis as a natural disaster that occurs when a geothermic power plant collapses into its deep sea trench. The wave expands circularly from the late plant, destroys all ships at or near the coast and can reach quite far inland on any island it hits, demolishing any building that happens to be in its path. Affected areas can't be rebuilt until the water has receded, and the only real defense against these tsunamis consists of high mountains between the power plant's location and the surrounding settlements - which is something the player has very little influence on.
  • Smite: He Bo's ultimate Crushing Wave literally turns him into the trope, heavily damaging anyone caught in his path and can kill a lot.
  • In Super Robot Wars Alpha 2, Yuu Brain and Hime Brain use their Chakara Shields to hold back a massive tidal wave long enough for ChouRyuJin to use Eraserhead to disperse it.
  • Half the reason the Hive in Destiny became what they are was to escape one of these that would have swept clean their entire homeworld. They lived on rocky continents floating in a gas giant, deep enough for the pressure to turn the gas into something like liquid. The gas giant had 52 moons. Imagine those moons aligning for a moment, their combined gravities pulling the ocean into a colossal bulge at a single point... and then imagine what happens to all that "water" when the moons pass and the bulge collapses.

    Web Animation 
  • Subverted in The Demented Cartoon Movie, where a so-called "tidal wave" turns out to only be of above-average size, and splashes harmlessly against a Blah.


    Web Original 
  • Gali, Toa of Water, pulled this off in a BIONICLE web serial. She usually just goes for bursts of water, but this time she decided the enemy was strong enough to warrant the of use very single drop of elemental energy she could muster. The wave was described as being "a thousand feet high" and destroyed every building in the land of Karzahni.
  • RealLifeLore has examined several massive real-life tsunamis that qualify, including Vajont and La Palma noted below. However, he also notes that megatsunamis normally caused by the impact of a huge amount of earth entering the water, rather than "normal" tsunamis that are caused by earthquakes.
  • In the Whateley Universe, Riptide is a side character. But when Chaka gets hurt in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl" and Riptide gets really upset, and there's a lake handy, a badguy in a getaway van finds out there's nowhere to run.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, waterbenders can do small scale versions of this. The Avatar, being much more powerful, can conjure tsunamis. Aang once nailed Sokka with one by accident.
  • Invader Zim once flattened an entire city... with a water balloon containing all of the water on Earth that created a 200-story (660 m) high wall of water.
  • Phineas and Ferb subverts and then proceeds to lampshade this in the episode "The Belly of the Beast", in which the titular characters drop a giant mechanical shark into Danville Harbor, causing what appears to be a giant wave. It then miraculously manages to avoid everyone on the crowded boardwalk except Candace, who then proclaims, "OK, now how did that only hit me?"
    • This scene is then repeated, and at the end of the episode, it's played straight.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "No Escape, Part II", Kaz, Torra and CB-23 have to outrun several of these as part of a plan to flush all of the stormtroopers still onboard the Colossus into the ocean.

    Real Life 
  • Real-life tsunamis are not as visually spectacular as the "wall of water" that many trope examples invoke: they're more like a very rapidly rising tide. However, the speed and force of the water is such that you do not want to be in it.
    • Indeed, the majority of real-life tsunamis could be seen as an aversion of the trope. They most often look very tame when they are approaching the shore, not much different from a normal wave. They are extremely deceptive, though; rather than stopping at the shore like other waves, they just keep on going and going inland without stopping.
      • However, if the seabed topography, shoreline shape, and wave characteristics come together right, the "gigantic comber" is in fact possible. There is one particular video that very briefly shows the 2011 Tohoku tsunami coming in in this manner at one particular location. The man with the camera took a couple of seconds to understand what he was capturing on video … and then drastically revised his priorities.
    • The word "tsunami" comes from Japanese and means "harbour wave". It implies according to Law of Bernoulli that the narrower a channel the tsunami is to pass, the higher it will get, and tsunami is on its most destructive on harbours. The first to understand the connection of an earthquake and the following gigantic wave was Thucydides.
  • Rogue waves. They can be up to 35 m high (yup, that's 115 feet) and they are preceded with a trough so deep and steep as described as "like a hole in the ocean". Their existence was long doubted, but they do exist. A rogue wave is steep and resembles a vertical wall of water, and can sink even an ocean-going ship, nevermind yachts and fishing vessels.
    • Two of them infamously sank the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. To scale the idea, it was a 700 foot long massive iron ore carrier and it was sunk so fast that they never even had a chance to make a distress call.
  • The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami is possibly one of the largest, most widely YouTubed disasters in history.
  • In Alaska, a piece of a mountain fell into Lituya Bay, and it is estimated that the resulting splash was around 100-300 feet high. The wave had enough speed and energy to ride up the opposite slope to a height of around 1700 feet.
  • The only tsunami known to kill people in Canada occurred in 1929, off the coast of Newfoundland. An earthquake in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge created a wave of water that swept houses completely off the land. The locals called it the "great big sea".
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by an earthquake that uplifted a 100 mile long section of sea floor, releasing a titanic amount of energy. It is also one of the deadliest natural disaster in history with over 220 thousand people casualties, since most of the affected countries had never experienced a tsunami of this scale.
  • The 1700 Cascadia earthquake occurred off the coast of what's now the state of Washington and British Columbia, devastating that coastline with waves up to 30 meters. It existed in the historical record only in Japan, which had an orphan tsunami with no apparent cause at the same time. It wasn't until 300 years later that physical proof was found of origin in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Sometime in February 1933, the US Navy oil tanker USS Ramapo was steaming through a nasty Pacific gale when she encountered a massive wave. Fortunately, she escaped with minor damage. Geometric calculations, however, showed the wave to have been 112 feet tall. To this day, it remains the tallest wind-driven wave ever recorded.
    • Estimations by oceanographers suggest that the tallest height possible for a wind-driven wave is 198 feet. Of course, it would take a freakishly rare combination of events and geography to produce such a monster; but still, a wave of that size could severely damage or even sink any ship unfortunate enough to encounter it.
  • One analysis of the Thera eruption in the 17th Century B.C.E. states that in Turkey, "two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave ... building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore." Thera is almost a hundred miles from the peninsulas mentioned, and there are other islands in the way which would've robbed the wave of some of its force ... but it was still 800 feet tall.
  • During the end of the last ice age, an immense ice dam in what is now Washington state collapsed under the weight of the water behind it, causing a series of devastating floods across the eastern part of the state — the most powerful of these generated the equivalent of 4500 megatons of TNT.
  • For a long time, the Biblical Flood has been considered legend or myth and without evidence, but there are indications it was indeed based on an actual event.
    • The leading hypothesis that the Flood was inspired by the flooding of the Black Sea at some point around 5600 BCE, which presumably would have looked a lot like this to the people present.
    • The Burckle Crater in the Indian Ocean, if indeed it turns out to be a crater, is hypothesized to have caused waves up to four kilometers tall when the object that created it hit, which would have hit most of the cradles of humanity at the time.
  • The volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands could cause one; an eruption could potentially send part of the island sliding into the Atlantic, causing a MEGAtsunami that could obliterate the east coast of the United States from Florida to Maine.
  • Tsunamis caused by underwater/into-water landslides are the largest and most powerful type after impact-generated tsunamis. Both are termed "megatsunamis", in Japanese ''iminami'', and there have been several in recorded times, the most recent being in 1980 with the eruption of Mount St. Helens and its avalanche into Spirit Lake. Several areas are likely to produce a major landslide and megatsunami in the future, the most alarming being at the Hawaiian Islands, where a large chunk of the Big Island is slowly cracking away from the rest of the island. For another potential example, see above.
  • The biggest tsunamis, speaking of which, are actually caused by meteorites crashing into the ocean.
    • For example, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was thought to have created a megatsunami several kilometres high that was large enough to completely submerge islands as large as Madagascar.
    • Although some simulations indicate that the wave height could not have exceeded 100 meters, as the water where the asteroid struck was just not deep enough to create anything bigger. If it had fallen in a deeper part of the ocean, however...
  • Sometimes, such tsunamis can take place in the least expected of places. In Vajont, Italy - in the mountains half a kilometer above sea level and nearly 100 kilometers from the coast - an entire mountainside (270 million cubic meters) collapsed into a reservoir half the size (shielded from a valley by a 200 meter dam). The dam itself withstood the pressure just fine, but the displaced water flushed over in a 250 meter-high wall of water and rolled through the valley beneath in a gigantic wave, destroying several villages and killing 2000 locals. It was the biggest man-made tsunami of all times.
  • Less extreme than the others here, but in 1952, the English village of Lynmouth was devastated by a flash flood that swept away houses, bridges and a lifeboat station as well as causing the collapse of a lighthouse. The wall of water was "only" about fifty feet high and carrying tree trunks and boulders.
  • At the end of the most recent glaciation, several areas of the world (most notably the part of the Pacific Northwest with the impossibly cool name of the Scablands) experienced glacial lake outburst megafloods which almost certainly presented themselves this way, with an added ominous rumbling audible long before their arrival.
  • One of the most unusual real life variations on this was the Great Molasses Flood of Boston in 1919. Almost nine thousand cubic meters of molasses were released when a tank of it burst and released an eight meter wave of molasses. Small buildings were ripped off their foundations and crushed. Unlike water, the molasses was almost impossible to escape from once people were ensnared. A reporter described vague shapes (people and horses) struggling inside the the sticky mass.
  • This trope, scaled down proportionately, brings an end to untold millions of beach-built sand castles.


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