Opposite this scar, on the spur that forms the corner between Gilbert Inlet and the main part of the bay, pilot Kenneth Loken flew alongside a sharp new trimline below which the trees and earth had been stripped away to clean bedrock. This tsunami is analogous to the tallest ever recorded tsunami, which hit Lituya Bay, Alaska in 1958. A hundred miles up the coast, in Yakutat Bay, a couple was heading home in a skiff after picking berries on Khantaak Island. We develop seismic policies and share information to promote programs intended to reduce earthquake-related losses. People living in coastal communities should understand how megatsunamis happen and what to do if they are near the water when they feel an earthquake or witness a large slide (hint: run uphill). A 1,720 foot tsunami towered over Lituya Bay, a quiet fjord in Alaska, after an earthquake rumbled 13 miles away. However, Steven Ward and Simon Day of UC Santa Cruz felt that the Gilbert Inlet slide alone could not account for the size of the wave that swept through the outer bay or the amount of material deposited at the bottom of Gilbert Inlet. Some of the material landed on the toe of Tyndall Glacier, but enough of it slammed into the water to generate a megatsunami with 600-foot run-up. The mountaineers’ pilot came early, on the evening of July 9, forcing a mad scramble to leave before nightfall. Their 2010 paper describes a possible double slide, where the destruction of the toe of Lituya Glacier triggered a much larger, slower submarine slide of glacial deposits after the initial rockslide. Miller wrote that his observations were ". In the 1950s, a sturdy cabin on the island served as a sometime base camp for Don Miller, a geologist who had taken an interest in Lituya Bay’s other great hazard. Like Paddy Sherman's climbers and the fishermen who survived the wave, it helps to be lucky. Ulrich was awakened by the shaking and went up on deck. Miller wrote that the hillsides were dripping with water while the streams that drained small lakes above the bay were running down in swollen torrents. In Lituya Bay, fewer than five minutes passed between the earthquake and when the wave reached the boats. A little after midnight, a boat responding to Ulrich's mayday calls found and rescued the Swansons. Don Miller, a USGS, Above: The stump of a living tree broken off by the wave at the mouth of Lituya Bay, about 7 miles from where the wave originated. Twenty-one of his men perished in the tidal current in the bay. It does, however, highlight the importance of documenting such events for posterity, and to consider such extreme events when making development decisions for coastal areas in areas with high seismicity or vulnerability to tsunamis. They felt the quake and watched as an 800-foot stretch of the island's beach disappeared into the bay along with three of their friends. The Sunmore (S) and Badger (B) were anchored in Anchorage Cove, while the Edrie (E) was anchored in the small cove behind the Paps hills. Cenotaph Island, a large wooded mound at the center of the bay, is named for the 21 members of the La Perouse expedition who drowned in 1798 after capsizing in the tidal bore at the bay’s shallow entrance. Miller was not around to study these, as he had drowned on the Kiagna River with a young assistant in 1961. Miller could not explain how the earthquake had caused such an enormous wave, but he was certain that it had. Scientists were puzzled for some time by the sheer size of the wave, because they could not identify a mechanism that could have created such a massive reaction. UAF is an AA/EO employer and educational institution and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual. Hermann Fritz and Willi Hager (2001), "Lituya Bay Case: Rock Slide Impat and Wave Run-Up", Don J. Miller (1960), "Giant Waves at Lituya Bay, Alaska", Don Tocher (1960), "The Alaska Earthquake of July 10, 1958: Movement on the Fairweather Fault and Field Investigation of Southern Epicentral Region", Steven N. Ward and Simon Day (2010), "The 1958 Lituya Bay Landslide and Tsunami - A Tsunami Ball Approach", Lituya Bay (at center left) offers the only sheltered anchorage for a long stretch of Southeast coast. Southeast Alaska Earthquake. When Miller returned to study the effects of the wave, he measured the highest trimline more precisely at 1,720 feet. World's Biggest Tsunami: The largest recorded tsunami with a wave 1720 feet tall in Lituya Bay, Alaska. 100-million-ton slide onto the Lamplugh Glacier, generate a megatsunami with 600-foot run-up, residents had no warning before the wave arrived, Lituya Bay Case: Rock Slide Impat and Wave Run-Up, The Alaska Earthquake of July 10, 1958: Movement on the Fairweather Fault and Field Investigation of Southern Epicentral Region, The 1958 Lituya Bay Landslide and Tsunami - A Tsunami Ball Approach, Embedded video for 60 years ago: The 1958 earthquake and Lituya Bay megatsunami, 2156 Koyukuk Drive, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks, AK 99775. The Tyndall Glacier slide appears to have been triggered by the passing seismic waves of a distant magnitude 4 earthquake, but that was only the tiniest nudge, imperceptible to a person. Bill Swanson described his boat lodged bow-first near the crest of the wave, as if surfing it backwards, as he looked down at treetops far below him. Gilbert Inlet and Crillon Inlet are at the back, mostly hidden by terrain. This massive tremor triggered around 30.6 million cubic meters of rock to fall 3,000 feet into the Lituya Glacier, causing a torrent of displaced water to rear up and form a monstrous wave which, miraculously, only killed five people. My ship seemed very small there beneath the steep walls of ice and stone. The four eyewitnesses to the wave in Lituya Bay itself all survived and described it as … By 9pm they were in the air, leaving behind three fishing boats that had come into the steep-walled bay for the night. Accessed November 20, 2020. USC Tsunami Research Group: 1958 Lituya Bay Tsunami, http://www.usc.edu/dept/tsunamis/alaska/1958/webpages/index.html, Disaster Pages of Dr. George PC: “The Mega-Tsunami of July 9, 1958 in Lituya Bay, Alaska”, http://www.drgeorgepc.com/Tsunami1958LituyaB.html, http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AlaskaScienceForum/article/giant-waves-lituya-bay, BBC Nature: Mega Tsunami – Alaskan Super Wave – Amazing Survival, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN6EgMMrhdI. The Fairweather fault runs directly through Gilbert and Crillon inlets, which form the crosspiece at the top of Lituya Bay's distinctive "T" shape. The 1958 cataclysm was triggered by a … Scientists fear the resulting event could happen "within the next year" and would drastically outclass the 1958 Lituya Bay Mega Tsunami in Alaska. This was followed by an explosion of water in Gilbert Inlet, which gave birth to a wave that Ulrich described as “the smallest part of the whole thing” even though it was at least 100 feet high. The landslide was not caused by an earthquake, and, Slope stability assessments can help to identify potential slides before they happen, but this is expensive, and Southeast's thousands of miles of steep coastline make it impractical except in a small number of targeted locations. It’s also possible that big landslides are becoming more common as glaciers retreat, removing support from the lower slopes of steep valleys. The biggest tsunami in present times struck at Lituya Bay, Alaska on July 9, 1958. On July 10, 1958, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake occurred on the Fairweather Fault in southeast Alaska. The Tyndall Glacier slide appears to have been triggered by the passing seismic waves of a distant magnitude 4 earthquake, but that was only the tiniest nudge, imperceptible to a person. Six years later, the magnitude 9.2 Great Alaska earthquake would trigger landslide tsunamis across southern Alaska, accounting for many of the deaths from that earthquake. The boat rode over the crest of the wave, down its shallower tailing side, and was carried by a returning wave towards the center of the bay. On October 27, 1936, a megatsunami occurred in Lituya Bay in Alaska with a maximum run-up height of 490 feet (149 m) in Crillon Inlet at the head of the bay. Over the next three weeks, the climbers made the second ascent of Mount Fairweather, a first ascent of an unnamed peak, and had come within 200 feet of the first ascent of Mount Lituya. To Miller, the destruction he saw was clearly the work of a giant wave, but its height seemed unbelievable. The lighthouse at Harbor Point and the cabin on Cenotaph Island were both gone without a trace. Education is our best tool. Two other boats also were anchored in the bay that night; those four people managed to ride out the wave. The combination of steep slopes rising directly out of the sea, rapid erosion from glaciers and heavy coastal precipitation, and frequent earthquakes all contribute to frequent landslides capable of causing tsunamis. There, a collapsing bluff started a wave that killed four people and caused much damage in the village of Nuugaatsiaq. From there it raced toward the mouth of the bay—and the fishing boats—with some side-to-side sloshing that accounted for variations in the height of the trimline along the length of the bay. He found that all evidence of previous tsunamis had been destroyed by this one. It is 14.5 km long and 3.2 km wide at its widest point. That was not the case in 2015, when 180 million tons of rock—the largest non-volcanic landslide ever documented in North Amerca—into Taan Fjord, an inlet of Icy Bay. There were 2 incredibly lucky fishermen in their boat on the Bay when the megatsunami happened, and they lived to tell about it. After a minute or so of shaking, Ulrich heard a great roar from the head of the bay. Six years later, the magnitude 9.2 Great Alaska earthquake would trigger landslide tsunamis across southern Alaska, accounting for many of the deaths from that earthquake. In the morning, he learned of the disaster in Lituya Bay and chartered a float plane to take him there. Accessed November 20, 2020. Somehow the Edrie was still afloat with its motor still running. On July 9, 1958, the largest wave in modern history occurred in Lituya Bay, on the northern Southeast Alaska coast about halfway between Cape Spencer and Yakutat. Alaska, Ecuador and Peru saw fairly high activity. Cenotaph Island is at center. But a record-breaking tsunami of a different sort occurred in 1958, in a remote part of Alaska known as Lituya Bay — and was witnessed by only six people, two of whom died. This trimline is 180 feet above sea level and 1000 feet from the high tide mark. Incredibly, the altimeter read 1,800 feet—1,300 feet higher than the 1936 trimline. displacing far more water than just the volume of the rock. The Sunmore and Badger were each crewed by married couples. In Yakutat, the earthquake damaged bridges and docks and knocked a water tower to the ground. 1958 had only 368 deaths. Find Lituya Bay in Google Earth and you'll see the marks today. Wiegel, built a 1:1000 scale model of Lituya Bay and found that he could more or less recreate Miller's observations given a large enough mass of rocks falling as a unit into Gilbert Inlet at high velocity. (Photo: USGS), The spur that forms the corner between Gilbert Inlet and the main body of Lituya Bay. Once over the bay, they could not land because its entire surface was strewn with tree trunks and giant blocks of ice. From variations in the height of the trimline, Miller inferred that part of the wave had washed over the spur while the rest of it crossed the bay diagonally and struck the south side near Mudslide Creek, creating the second highest trimline. Lituya Bay Oblique aerial photograph of Lituya Bay in the summer of 1958. A second Berkeley researcher, R.L. Distinct trimlines—demarcations in the vegetation with young growth below and old growth above—showed where unusually large waves had torn through the bay and run up hillsides as high as 490 feet. Miller wrote that his observations were "widely doubted both on theoretical grounds and on the basis of aerial observations and study of photographs by others." The earthquake struck at 10:16pm. We develop seismic policies and share information to promote programs intended to reduce earthquake related losses. The Fairweather fault does not produce the largest earthquakes, but the danger from these earthquakes is increased by the combination of steep slopes, unconsolidated soils, narrow fjords, and a population that lives and works by the sea. The barge heaved, and Miller watched as rocks fell from high cliffs into the bay. Don Miller, the geologist, was on a USGS barge in Glacier Bay when the earthquake struck. Two were rescued from a dinghy after their boat sank, the others managed to pilot out of the bay on their own power, but at great risk, as the water continued to swirl unpredictably, and was littered with millions of tree trunks that had been ripped from the banks. Philip Fradkin (2001), Wildest Alaska, University of California. Conferences, Workshops and Board Meetings, 2015 WSSPC Registration (Payment By Check), Join/Renew Affiliate Membership (Credit Card), Engineering, Construction and Building Codes Committee. April 1, 1946: The April Fools tsunami, triggered by an earthquake in Alaska, killed 159 people, mostly in Hawaii. At approximately 10:15 PM Pacific Time, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck the Fairweather Fault in Southeast Alaska triggering a massive landslide that caused 30 million cubic metres of rock and ice to fall into the narrow inlet of Lituya Bay. 11,300 feet up Mount St. Elias, another group of climbers felt the ground moving in waves as avalanches pounded down the slopes around them. It’s also possible that big landslides are becoming more common as glaciers retreat, removing support from the lower slopes of steep valleys. Some 27,000 people died. Usually even a megatsunami like Lituya Bay is a localized disaster, and technology-based warning systems cannot work quickly enough to help people just a few miles from the source. In 2016, an entire mountainside failed and ran out onto the Lamplugh Glacier. Some of the material landed on the toe of Tyndall Glacier, but enough of it slammed into the water to, Large earthquakes sometimes start the landslides that cause megatsunamis, as in Lituya Bay, but not always. Scientists who had not seen the effects of the wave firsthand argued that above 300 feet, the soil and trees must have slid into the bay during the earthquake. Miller, USGS/Wikimedia Commons). Proving this would require surveying the bottom of Gilbert Inlet to measure and date the layers of sediment. Ulrich steered into the wave and the Edrie shot up its face, snapping the anchor chain and sending it whipping around the pilot house. There, a collapsing bluff started a wave that killed four people and caused much damage in the village of, . Lituya Bay is a fjord located on the coast of the south-east part of the U.S. state of Alaska. The impact generated a local tsunami that crashed against the southwest shore… He tossed a life preserver to his 7-year-old-son, told him to pray, and then let out all of his remaining anchor chain. (Photo: USGS), South side of Lituya Bay, soon after the tsunami. Two people fishing in the bay were killed, but another boat amazingly managed to ride the wave. © 2009-2021 Western States Seismic Policy Council. The red arrow shows the location of the landslide, and the yellow arrow shows the location of the high point of the wave sweeping over the headland. The hat brim is 12 inches in diameter. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake had begun near Cross Sound and ruptured 125 miles of the Fairweather fault, from Palma Bay to Icy Bay. 1936: Lituya Bay, Alaska. It caused significant geologic changes in the region, including areas that experienced uplift and subsidence. All five deaths occurred in the water, which speaks to the nature of earthquake hazards in Southeast. Giant Waves in Lituya Bay Alaska By DON J. MILLER SHORTER. The hat brim is 12 inches in diameter. Slope stability assessments can help to identify potential slides before they happen, but this is expensive, and Southeast's thousands of miles of steep coastline make it impractical except in a small number of targeted locations. Avalanches were coming down the mountains at the head of the bay. A non-profit earthquake consortium for the western states. Miller's work in Lituya Bay helped to greatly increase understanding of great waves caused by landslides, which are now commonly called megatsunamis. All five deaths occurred in the water, which speaks to the nature of earthquake hazards in Southeast. The undersea slide that, So far we have been lucky to have few human impacts from recent landslide tsunamis in Alaska, but a disaster in Greenland in 2017 should serve as a warning. (Photo: USGS). Large earthquakes sometimes start the landslides that cause megatsunamis, as in Lituya Bay, but not always. (Map from Miller, Great Waves in Lituya Bay, Alaska), Aerial view of Lituya Bay. Ultimately, it was discovered that a piece of rock, 2,400 feet by 3,000 feet, and 300 feet thick, had dislodged from the face of the northern wall of the inlet, and fallen 2,000 feet into the bay. Fortunately, both of these slides ran out onto glaciers instead of into water. Miller believed he had identified four such waves over the last century, but he did not know their cause. Obviously, megatsunamis will happen again, and possibly without warning. Education is our best tool. The Wagners on the Sunmore reacted first, raising their anchor and making for the entrance of the bay. CONTRIBUTIONS TO GENERAL GEOLOGY GEOLOGICAL SURVEY PROFESSIONAL PAPER 354-C A timely account of the nature and possible causes of certain giant waves, with eyewitness reports of their destructive capacity UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFIC.E, WA:SHIN:GTON : 1960 Damage from the 1958 megatsunami … When hot weather made glacier travel untenable, they returned to Lituya Bay and radioed a request to be picked up on July 10. The earthquake was so strong, and the tsunami came so quickly, that there was not time to get to a safe place. The combination of steep slopes rising directly out of the sea, rapid erosion from glaciers and heavy coastal precipitation, and frequent earthquakes all contribute to frequent landslides capable of causing tsunamis. The Lituya Bay incident only killed 5 people, as it happened at a rugged part of Alaska’s southern strip. Howard Ulrich had brought his seven-year-old son along on the Edrie. After a minute or so the wave reached Cenotaph Island, breaking as it came around the left side but smooth-faced on the right. The Edrie, meanwhile, was caught in a mess of disordered, 20-foot chop filled with ice and logs. Three persons were killed in Lituya Bay, and two people were missing and presumed dead who were caught in the tsunami. geologist, had already documented a total of three other major tsunamis at this location; he flew out to the site the next day, and although he was able to take photos from the air, it was another three weeks before it was safe enough to land to document the destruction. In some respects, it created a similar reaction to that which would have occurred if an asteroid had fallen into the water. A landslide there in 1958, caused by a major earthquake, had pushed a gigantic wave over that mountain's shoulder and out the bay. (Image: D.J. Two of the deaths were the Wagners, who had tried to flee Lituya Bay aboard the Sunmore; they were never seen again. A flying boat dropped Paddy Sherman’s mountaineering expedition at Lituya Bay on June 17, 1958. It was felt from Seattle to Whitehorse, though most of the structural damage was confined to Yakutat. Unfortunately, the qualities that make Lituya Bay so prone to landslide tsunamis are found in bays and fjords throughout Southeast Alaska. Damage from the 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami can be seen in this oblique aerial photograph of Lituya Bay, Alaska as the lighter areas at the shore where trees have been stripped away. Hence, there was little effect on human settlements. (Image: Geology.com/NASA Landsat) (Map from Miller, Great Waves in Lituya Bay, Alaska), During the earthquake, the bay side of Gilbert and Crillon inlets moved about 20 feet northwest relative to the northeast wall that forms the head of the bay. The seven miles long and two miles narrow Lituya Bay. In other words, 60 years after the Lituya Bay tsunami, we are still working out how it happened. They flew over rafts of logs fanning out in the open water as far as five miles from the mouth of the bay. People living in coastal communities should understand how megatsunamis happen and what to do if they are near the water when they feel an earthquake or witness a large slide (hint: run uphill). On July 9, 1958, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.7-8.3 triggered an enormous rockfall in a remote bay along the Gulf of Alaska. Melting Alaska glacier could unleash ‘mega-tsunami’ hundreds of feet tall THIS year ... 16 times more debris and 11 times more energy than Alaska's 1958 Lituya Bay landslide and … The move that I just made looks like this: 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami → 1958 Lituya Bay, Alaska earthquake and megatsunami. The landslide was not caused by an earthquake, and residents had no warning before the wave arrived. When an earthquake strikes...Drop, Cover and Hold on! The undersea slide that killed one in Skagway in 1994 was not triggered by an earthquake at all, but by an extreme low tide. July 9, 1958: Regarded as the largest recorded in modern times, the tsunami in Lituya Bay, Alaska was caused by a landslide triggered by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake. That was not the case in 2015, when 180 million tons of rock—the largest non-volcanic landslide ever documented in North Amerca—into Taan Fjord, an inlet of Icy Bay.

Miller, United States Geological Survey. University of Alaska (2018, July 13) 60 Years Ago: The 1958 Earthquake and Lituya Bay Megatsunami. Scientists named these waves megatsunami 1. This 7.8Mw earthquake was characterized as extreme and triggered many rockslides accounting to three million cubic meters that fell into the Lituya Bay … During the earthquake, the southwest side of the inlets moved about 20 feet northwest relative to the opposite shore, on the other side of the fault. It caused significant geologic changes in the region, including areas that experienced uplift and subsidence. Ward and Day describe how the initial rockfall could have triggered a second submarine slide of glacial sediment capable of generating the wave observed in the outer bay. It also caused a rockfall in Lituya Bay that generated a wave with a maximum height of 1,720 feet – the world’s largest recorded tsunami. The boat crashed down and foundered on the far side of the spit, but Swanson and his wife Vivian were able to escape the wreck in their skiff with just the clothes they were wearing and a chair for a paddle. University of Alaska (2018, July 13) Lituya Bay. The wave was brought on by an enormous 8.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Fairweather Fault and caused a massive earth landslide. A landslide like this into water would generate a megatsunami. Our. By 9pm they were in the air, leaving behind three fishing boats that had come into the steep-walled bay for the night. Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent any of the five deaths. Miller first assumed that the wave had been caused by the large movements along the fault in the inlets. The Sunmore had vanished, and the Wagners were never found. One World Trade Center in New York City is only 56 feet taller. Up on the northeast wall, Miller spotted a huge landslide scar with cascades of rock still running down it. In Gilbert Inlet, which branches north at a right angle from the head of the bay, Miller found that a stream delta had vanished and 1,300 feet of ice had sheared off the end of Lituya Glacier. In June 2016, pilot Paul Swanstrom followed a strange dust plume and found the aftermath of a more than 100-million-ton slide onto the Lamplugh Glacier. Our tsunami inundation maps include landslide tsunami scenarios for some of Alaska's most at-risk communities, showing which areas are likely to be safe and which are not. Wiegel's and Fritz's research reinforced Miller's observations as well as Ulrich's eyewitness account of the massive wave in Gilbert Inlet. Landslide like this into water massive earth landslide two other boats also were anchored in inlets! Fallen into the water, which are now commonly called megatsunamis that is... 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