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Help the State Library solve the mystery of the Bainbridge Island tsunami

The Washington State Library's Ask-a-Librarian service gets an average of 170 questions each month. Some of these questions are answered quickly, but others require a bit more research.  A recent reference question has stumped librarians, so now the public's help is needed.

The individual who submitted the question is looking for newspaper articles about a landslide in Brownsville, Washington, on the Kitsap Peninsula. The landslide caused a small tsunami on Bainbridge Island near Battle Point. Using aerial photos, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources narrowed the dates to between May 1978 and June 1981, but there is no specific record of the event.

The Washington State Library has state and federal government publications that help answer a variety of research queries such as this one. Unfortunately, library researchers were unable to find mention of the landslide. A survey of the collection of Northwest books found no recording of the event, either.

Researchers then turned to the Washington State Library’s extensive collection of historical newspapers on microfilm. Yes, microfilm! The Washington State Library acts as the depository for newspapers published in the state of Washington, as outlined in the “Duties of State Librarian” (RCW 27.04.045).

The library houses over 50,000 rolls of newspapers on microfilm dating back to 1853, with titles from every county in the state. Two Kitsap County newspapers which might have covered the event were searched, but nothing was found in either paper: the Bainbridge Review and the Kitsap County Herald.

Without knowing the date of the event or narrowing the dates down further, researchers cannot provide an answer to this question. You, the Washington State community, can help solve this mystery. If you remember this event or heard about it from someone, please contact the Washington State Library.

Do you have a question about Washington state history you have wanted to find an answer to? Feel free to use the Ask-a-Librarian service:


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The Washington Office of the Secretary of State’s blog provides from-the-source information about important state news and public services.

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