Thursday, May 12, 2022

Hilo's Tsunami Museum packs a powerful punch with frightening exhibits, films, commentary

The dreaded tsunami was the focus of an interesting afternoon for Bruce Keller and Christene
"Cookie" Meyers, who visited the engaging Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii
. An extensive
collection of photos, oral histories, videos, artifacts and displays awaits. We recommend staying
at Hilton's Grand Naniloa Hotel, a welcoming Double Tree with gorgeous harbor views. 


The wreckage caused by a tsunami is enormous.
The Hilo museum explores the causes of the killer waves.




Dramatic displays tell the story of how
humanity is affected by tsunami's horrors.
TSUNAMIS are among the planet's most fearsome natural disasters. And nowhere are people more aware of the dangers of this raging act of nature than in the Hawaiian Islands.
In Hilo, Tsunami sirens are on alert and school children are taught to watch for warning signs: tremors, roars from the ocean, receding waters exposing the sea floor. All spell impending doom. Evacuation Zones are marked and families store emergency kits.
Since 1812, more than 160 confirmed tsunamis have been recorded on the islands, causing countless deaths and damage topping $625 million. The April, 1946, tsunami in Hilo alone, killed 159 people and destroyed $26 million in property.  Its cause was an undersea earthquake off the Alaskan coast triggering the massive Big Island tsunami.
IT SEEMS fitting, then, that the world's only museum dedicated entirely to the tsunami is located in Hilo.
Tsunamis around the world are explored in well
designed displays with photographs, news clips.

The fascinating Pacific Tsunami Museum -- a thoughtfully  renovated bank-- tells the fearsome tale of the tsunami, pronounced soo-NAH-mee, and its impact in Japan, Alaska, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. Taken from the Japanese, tsunami means "harbor wave" but is usually a series of waves caused by an underwater disturbance. Earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions are among tsunami's chief causes.
Getting a breath of fresh air
after the intensity of the fine
Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Hilo's small but excellent museum interestingly weaves specific tsunami occurrences with data, photographs and narrative.  It features an interesting mix of scientific exhibits. A favorite with school children is an interactive wave-making model which allows the visitor to make his own miniature tsunami.
Stories of rescues and heroism are also well told.
AN ABSORBING film includes moving personal anecdotes of brave tsunami survivors, interlaced with graphic details of personal brushes with monster waves. The museum is all about stories and tells them well.

Diagrams, maps, newspaper accounts and displays show various horrifying tsunamis over the last 500 years. Visitors learn what caused them and see stories of the human survival spirit. Maps show "runup points" -- measurements of the heights wave reach. 
Positano today is a highlight on Italy's Amalfi coast.
In 1343, it was the scene of a huge tsunami which
destroyed the town, ending the republic's sea power days.
Where tsunamis were caused by earthquakes, the quake's magnitude is analyzed through wave energy creating this fearsome natural disaster. 
TSUNAMIS GO back centuries. The oldest recorded one occurred in 479 BC, destroying a Persian army attacking Potidaea, Greece.
Fast forward to 1958, in a display recounting effects of a huge tsunami triggered by an Alaskan landslide. Its 1,700-foot wave -- the largest ever recorded -- inundated five square miles of land and cleared thousands of trees.

Another catastrophe occurred in Europe on the Amalfi coast, where we've many times visited.  In its maritime republic days, it was a thriving port with a wealthy population of 70,000.
The ocean awaits, with beautifully landscaped
grounds, at Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo, Hawaii.

That was until 1343 when it was wiped out.  A massive earthquake under the Tyrrhenian Sea sparked a devastating tsunami along southern Italy's coast. Amalfi’s harbor and its boats were destroyed; the lower town fell into the sea. A once thriving city shrank to a village of 6,000, ending Amalfi's days as a sea power.
THE LOVELY stretch of coastline from north of Naples to south of the Cilento National Park bore the brunt of the huge killer wave, which wiped out the towns of Bussanto and Blanda, near present-day resorts of Sapri and Maratea. Both Naples and nearby Salerno suffered huge damage, including a death toll of tens of thousands. 
The Hilo museum is a testimony both to the power of the tsunami and the power of the human spirit.
More information on this intriguing museum: 
Best bet for your Hilo stay: Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo,

A refreshing green tea drink is served at Just Matcha Tea Shop, one of
seven varied stops on a highly recommended "Taste of Victoria" food tour.
UP NEXT: Food glorious food! Plus history, exercise, variety, fun.  Victoria, British Columbia, has much to recommend it, and we frequent visitors found a new, delightful, food-sampling, history-telling venue.  We take readers on a "Taste of Victoria" food tour,  Canada's top-rated food tour, with stops at a variety of large and small bars, eateries and food stands.  We found it an engaging way to spend a few hours.  Owner Andy Olson delivers a delightful time showing  his love both of food and his adopted city. Rain or shine, he takes foodies and history lovers around downtown Victoria, from tea and sweets shops to pubs, Indonesian and barbecue eateries and other hidden gems in this lively, historic city where he knows everyone. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly. Please share:


  1. Denver Road TrippersMay 15, 2022 at 1:01 PM

    Fascinating. Did not realize such a museum existed. Thank you.

  2. San Mateo GeologistsMay 16, 2022 at 6:49 AM

    Hope we can visit next time we go to the Big Island. Fascinating.

  3. Pacific IslandersMay 17, 2022 at 9:11 AM

    So grateful to see this story on a museum we are all proud of here in Hawaii.