For the people of the Juan Fernandez Islands and the coastal town of Talcahuano in Chile, Saturday morning's tsunami certainly didn't feel small. On the heels of a titanic magnitude 8.8 earthquake, surges of ocean water over 7 feet high crashed ashore, flinging large boats and shipping containers inland and leaving piles of wreckage along the coastline.
As of the time of writing, 5 people are dead and 11 still missing as a result of the tsunami. Some 711 people are confirmed dead from the earthquake itself, and that number is expected to rise. There is no question that this was a grave disaster for the people of Chile.
But compared to the 2004 tsunami that killed 230,000 people across the Indian Ocean, people living on the Pacific coasts of Mexico, California, Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, and numerous other places recorded wave heights of 1 meter (3.3 feet) or less. In short, they dodged a bullet.
The tsunami was spawned by the 5th largest earthquake ever recorded, so why was it so small?