In A.D. 1755, an earthquake destroyed Lisbon, Portugal. The region was then hit forcefully by a tsunami and engulfed by an enormous fire. Thefts and destruction followed, damaging emblematic places of irreplaceable historical and spiritual value, especially churches. The occurrence of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake remains known by the eldest, but it has been forgotten and even unheard of by younger generations. Over the last decade there has been a considerable increase in the research, involving geologists, seismologists, and oceanographers, so as to better understand the processes and the complexity of seismic risks and tsunamis. However, little has been done to inform the population and policy makers about the options available to them to better prevent and respond to earthquake disasters. The main aim of this study is to evaluate the Portuguese citizens’ scientific literacy regarding tsunamis and to analyze their knowledge related to the 1755 earthquake. For this purpose, we conducted 206 structured interviews in a public place, and asked the general public to collaborate. At the beginning of the interviews people were shown a previously drawn scenario showing a tsunami epicenter and three boats in different places of the ocean. The sample comprised 107 females (52%) and 99 males (48%) (ages ranged from 12 to 85). The interviews were conducted by two members of the research team and were audiotaped for a better and more reliable transcription. Content analysis was subsequently established with the help of the QSR International NVivo 10 qualitative data analysis software package (www.qsrinternational.com/nvivo-product). Results showed that there is a wide lack of knowledge regarding tsunamis, including those that occurred in the past, and the majority of interviewees recognized the need to know more about these issues. This evidence indicates the importance of including these historical and social and scientific issues in geosciences programs, giving more relevance to teaching seismic risks, their prevention, and possible responses.
- Received 28 May 2015.
- Revision received 2 November 2016.
- Accepted 22 February 2017.
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