In the small coastal town of Neskowin in Tillamook County in Oregon, somewhere between Lincoln City and Pacific City lie the remains of an ancient forest, rising out of the sand and seawater. Dubbed the Neskowin Ghost Forest, they are an eerily beautiful memory of the towering Sitka spruce trees that stood here for some two millennia.
For nearly 300 years the “phantom forest” strains remained hidden under the sand, resting until they were uncovered during the winter of 1997-1998, when the coast of Oregon was pummeled by powerful storms that eroded away the sands and exposed the uncanny natural wonder that was buried beneath. The storm took away a large mass of sandy soil, leaving about 100 trunks found in the ground under water.
Before being discovered the trunks represented a real local legend, with the residents of Tillamook debating animatedly about the existence or not of a real ghost forest. Legend has it that the trunks only appeared once every several decades, and always for a very short time. Since the winter of 1998, however, the ghost forest of Neskowin is no longer a legend, and has become a highly sought destination for people in search of unusual and characteristic landscapes.
Estimates indicate that the tree stumps of the phantom forest are about 2000 years old and that, when the trees were alive, they reached a height of about 45 – 60 meters. The carbon dating of the remains confirmed the theories, and indicates with precision the death of the forest between 1680 and 1720. The researchers motivated the death of the trees with an earthquake from north-west direction, and the consequent tsunami which covered the trunks with sand. Referring to old Japanese manuscripts, the researchers discovered that only one tsunami occurred in the world between 1680 and 1720, an event that caused the flooding of several villages even in the Japanese country. The precise date was January 26, 1700, which is fully confirmed by studies on tree rings, which show the perfect state of health at the end of 1699 and death by the end of the 1700s.
It was therefore established that in 1700 a terrible Tsunami struck the coasts of Oregon, causing the ground to sink 10 meters and consequently drowning the trees in the mud. Shortly after the burial, a tremendous tsunami would have arrived that would have cut the upper part of the trunk, leaving only a few meters of height to once enormous trees. The absence of oxygen, mud and bacteria have therefore preserved the now lifeless trunks of these ancient conifers, making them re-emerge only 300 years later. Today, the petrified relics of those giants share the beach with small tide pools and various marine life.
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