Secondary Source: Chapter 27

Excerpt from article:
1812 California Tsunami Carried a Ship Inland

January 09, 2005 | Cecilia Rasmussen | Times Staff Writer
Dec. 21, 1812: Capt. Issac Whittemore and the crew of the 283-ton brig Charon had been scouring California’s coast for “soft gold:” extraordinarily lush otter pelts. Sitting at anchor in Refugio Bay near Gaviota Pass, they planned to do a brisk but illegal business with the pious but practical Franciscan padres: swapping the pelts for cowhides.

About 10:30 a.m., the sea began to rise.

A tsunami related to a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in the Santa Barbara Channel lifted the ship and dumped it half a mile up Refugio Canyon. Then the receding wave yanked the ship back out to sea.

(Records fail to note whether the Charon was damaged or whether any crewmen were hurt. But the ship survived.)

The temblor is believed to have come from a fault under Santa Cruz Island…

Computer models based on the 1812 incident suggest that a local tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake-induced landslide could hit the Southern California coast with little warning, according to Jose Borrero, an assistant research professor at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering…

No one knows how much time elapsed between the 1812 quake and the tsunami, but it could have been as little as 15 minutes, the U.S. Geological Survey says…

Last updated: November 16, 2017