Wiegel's and Fritz's research reinforced Miller's observations as well as Ulrich's eyewitness account of the massive wave in Gilbert Inlet. The Edrie, meanwhile, was caught in a mess of disordered, 20-foot chop filled with ice and logs. 1958 had only 368 deaths. The bay was noted in 1786 by Jean-François de Lapérouse, who named it Port des Français. 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 10, 1958, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake occurred on the Fairweather Fault in southeast 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 … On the night of July 9, 1958, an earthquake along the Fairweather Fault in the Alaska Panhandle loosened about 40 million cubic yards (30.6 million cubic meters) of rock high above the northeastern shore of Lituya Bay. By 9pm they were in the air, leaving behind three fishing boats that had come into the steep-walled bay for the night. They flew over rafts of logs fanning out in the open water as far as five miles from the mouth of the bay. Scientists named these waves megatsunami 1. This mass of rock plunged from an altitude of approximately 3000 feet (914 meters) down into the waters of Gilbert Inlet (see map below). Nearer the mouth of the bay, at Anchorage Cove, the wave picked up the Badger and threw it over the spit. Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent any of the five deaths. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. The impact generated a local tsunami that crashed against the southwest shore… It caused significant geologic changes in the region, including areas that experienced uplift and subsidence. 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 The wave didn’t travel far, as it struck land almost immediately. A non-profit earthquake consortium for the western states. The strike-slip earthquake took place on the Fairweather Fault and triggered a rockslide of 40 million cubic yards (30 million cubic meters and about 90 million tons) into the narrow inlet of Lituya Bay, Alaska. Somehow the Edrie was still afloat with its motor still running. The Lituya Bay incident only killed 5 people, as it happened at a rugged part of Alaska’s southern strip. Lituya Bay is a fjord located on the coast of the south-east part of the U.S. state of Alaska. Miller was not around to study these, as he had drowned on the Kiagna River with a young assistant in 1961. But Miller had seen driftwood and rocks strewn across the slopes at the top of the trimline, and the trees that had not been washed into the bay all lay on the ground pointing westward, as the wave had traveled. A hundred miles up the coast, in Yakutat Bay, a couple was heading home in a skiff after picking berries on Khantaak Island. Once over the bay, they could not land because its entire surface was strewn with tree trunks and giant blocks of ice. 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. Proving this would require surveying the bottom of Gilbert Inlet to measure and date the layers of sediment. There, a collapsing bluff started a wave that killed four people and caused much damage in the village of, . The wave was brought on by an enormous 8.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Fairweather Fault and caused a massive earth landslide. The hat brim is 12 inches in diameter. This is the site of the 1,720-foot run-up, the highest ever documented. All five deaths occurred in the water, which speaks to the nature of earthquake hazards in Southeast. 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. All told, five people were killed by the earthquake and subsequent wave in Lituya Bay. Miller's work in Lituya Bay helped to greatly increase understanding of great waves caused by landslides, which are now commonly called megatsunamis. 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. 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. Three persons were killed in Lituya Bay, and two people were missing and presumed dead who were caught in the tsunami. One World Trade Center in New York City is only 56 feet taller. Ulrich steered into the wave and the Edrie shot up its face, snapping the anchor chain and sending it whipping around the pilot house. As the wall of water rushed down the inlet, Ulrich found that that his anchor was hopelessly stuck. 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. They felt the quake and watched as an 800-foot stretch of the island's beach disappeared into the bay along with, To Miller, the destruction he saw was clearly the work of a giant wave, but its height seemed unbelievable. Howard Ulrich had brought his seven-year-old son along on the Edrie. Alaska, Ecuador and Peru saw fairly high activity. Conferences, Workshops and Board Meetings, 2015 WSSPC Registration (Payment By Check), Join/Renew Affiliate Membership (Credit Card), Engineering, Construction and Building Codes Committee. Fritz and Hager found that a slide like the one at Gilbert Inlet could generate that much run-up because the rapid impact of the slide would bring a large air cavity into the water behind it, displacing far more water than just the volume of the rock. I think I have resolved the issue that I mentioned three years ago by including the words "Alaska" and "earthquake" in the title (a few sources that I looked at labeled the earthquake the "1958 Alaska earthquake"). 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. 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. Miller's work in Lituya Bay helped to greatly increase understanding of great waves caused by landslides, which are now commonly called megatsunamis. In Yakutat, the earthquake damaged bridges and docks and knocked a water tower to the ground. Lituya Bay offers the only sheltered anchorage for a long stretch of Southeast Alaska coast, but the bay itself is hardly safe. 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. Unfortunately, the qualities that make Lituya Bay so prone to landslide tsunamis are found in bays and fjords throughout Southeast Alaska. This was so big that it is known scientifically as a megatsunami. Miller believed he had identified four such waves over the last century, but he did not know their cause. (Photo: USGS), The spur that forms the corner between Gilbert Inlet and the main body of Lituya Bay. Miller wrote that his observations were ". 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. The other three deaths occurred eighty miles north, on a beach on Khantaak Island. University of Alaska (2018, July 13) 60 Years Ago: The 1958 Earthquake and Lituya Bay Megatsunami. Accessed November 20, 2020. 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