Where is your current work focused?

I am looking for and describing coastlines and tsunami deposits all over the world.

Tsunamis are large and powerful ocean waves. They grow in size as they reach the shore. Earthquakes cause most tsunamis. When this happens, big gaps may appear on the ocean floor. Water moves in to fill this gap. Then a tsunami forms. Goodman studied one in Israel.

a beach in Caesarea, Israel

underwater ruins in Caesarea

Describe your first dive in Israel.

One of the excavation leaders took us out for a tour of the site. He wanted to check our gear. He also wanted to see how we handled ourselves in the water. I was very nervous.

Once we dropped into the water, however, we were surrounded by huge blocks of ancient building materials. At that point, I was too distracted to think about anything else.

We cruised around ancient blocks covered in plants and critters. Through narrow spaces, we could see wood that was 2,000 years old!

What were you looking for during that season of excavation?

We needed to find evidence that tsunamis happened here in the past. We didn’t have proof on land. One problem is that an archaeological site on a coastline has a lot of sand, pottery, shell, and gravel. A tsunami deposit has the same things! It was hard to be sure that those layers were from a tsunami.

So, the team looked for evidence of tsunamis below the surface.

Goodman collects a sediment sample in a small bag.

Goodman shows students what the inside of a core sample looks like.

The first evidence was collected during underwater excavations. We used a water dredge. This is like an underwater vacuum cleaner.

We found layers of materials from the deep sea. They were mixed with materials from the shallow sea and beach. There was also material that came from the land. The mixture included pottery, shells, pebbles, tiny organisms, patches of mud, and even large pieces of carved marble. The only thing that could cause this mix of materials would be strong waves.

The team then linked the age of the deposits to the age of historical events.

The discovery was important. It proved that the written records were describing actual tsunamis.

We thought the debris field should be very large. To find out, we needed to take core samples. We had to insert long pipes into the seafloor. This is not so easy to do in sand. You must hammer the pipe in a long time. Then you must remove it somehow.

We needed to connect an automatic hammer to the pipe to hammer it in. We needed to attach ropes and floats to pull it out. It took a lot of thinking until we got it right.

Goodman holds a pipe being used to take a sample of the seabed.