The bay was noted in 1786 by Jean-François de Lapérouse, who named it Port des Français. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. In the morning, he learned of the disaster in Lituya Bay and chartered a float plane to take him there. 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. 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. 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). 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. (Image: D.J. 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." 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. The hat brim is 12 inches in diameter. All told, five people were killed by the earthquake and subsequent wave in Lituya 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. Unfortunately, the qualities that make Lituya Bay so prone to landslide tsunamis are found in bays and fjords throughout Southeast Alaska. The Fairweather fault runs directly through Gilbert and Crillon inlets, which form the crosspiece at the top of Lituya Bay's distinctive "T" shape. Scar at the head of Lituya Bay and wave damage on the north shore, from southwest of … We develop seismic policies and share information to promote programs intended to reduce earthquake-related losses. 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. © 2009-2021 Western States Seismic Policy Council. Hence, there was little effect on human settlements. 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. 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 biggest tsunami in present times struck at Lituya Bay, Alaska on July 9, 1958. Ulrich was awakened by the shaking and went up on deck. 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. Scientists named these waves megatsunami 1. 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. Proving this would require surveying the bottom of Gilbert Inlet to measure and date the layers of sediment. Lituya Bay offers the only sheltered anchorage for a long stretch of Southeast Alaska coast, but the bay itself is hardly safe. Miller believed he had identified four such waves over the last century, but he did not know their cause. 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 … There were 2 incredibly lucky fishermen in their boat on the Bay when the megatsunami happened, and they lived to tell about it. Nearer the mouth of the bay, at Anchorage Cove, the wave picked up the Badger and threw it over the spit. The landslide was not caused by an earthquake, and residents had no warning before the wave arrived. Two hundred miles to the south, underwater landslides in Lynn Canal severed ACS's Juneau-Skagway cable in four places. The, A hundred miles up the coast, in Yakutat Bay, a couple was heading home in a skiff after picking berries on Khantaak Island. 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. This 7.8Mw earthquake was characterized as extreme and triggered many rockslides accounting to three million cubic meters that fell into the Lituya Bay … Two of the deaths were the Wagners, who had tried to flee Lituya Bay aboard the Sunmore; they were never seen again. A 1,720 foot tsunami towered over Lituya Bay, a quiet fjord in Alaska, after an earthquake rumbled 13 miles away. Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent any of the five deaths. The landslide scar, which was high above Gilbert Inlet on a near-vertical slope, appeared to have dumped about 40 million tons of rock into the inlet all at once. Damage from the 1958 megatsunami … Incredibly, the altimeter read 1,800 feet—1,300 feet higher than the 1936 trimline. When an earthquake strikes...Drop, Cover and Hold on! Alaska, Ecuador and Peru saw fairly high activity. Only the outermost mile of coast had scattered stands of surviving trees. Accessed November 20, 2020. Three persons were killed in Lituya Bay, and two people were missing and presumed dead who were caught in the tsunami. The largest event was a magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Russia in November. When hot weather made glacier travel untenable, they returned to Lituya Bay and radioed a request to be picked up on July 10. In some respects, it created a similar reaction to that which would have occurred if an asteroid had fallen into the water. He found that all evidence of previous tsunamis had been destroyed by this one. Education is our best tool. Accessed November 20, 2020. The hat brim is 12 inches in diameter. (Photo: USGS), The spur that forms the corner between Gilbert Inlet and the main body of Lituya Bay. In 2001, Hermann Fritz and Willi Hager attempted to replicate the initial wave's 1,720-foot run-up using a pneumatic landslide generator to blast simulated rockslides into at 1:675 scale model 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. A non-profit earthquake consortium for the western states. 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. It’s also possible that big landslides are becoming more common as glaciers retreat, removing support from the lower slopes of steep valleys. 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. There, a collapsing bluff started a wave that killed four people and caused much damage in the village of Nuugaatsiaq. After a minute or so of shaking, Ulrich heard a great roar from the head of the bay. 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. A little after midnight, a boat responding to Ulrich's mayday calls found and rescued the Swansons. The tsunami was triggered by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake, triggering … The four eyewitnesses to the wave in Lituya Bay itself all survived and described it as … Still, living with the danger of megatsunamis is part of the cost of working and playing in one of the world's most breathtaking landscapes. 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. Obviously, megatsunamis will happen again, and possibly without warning. 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 Nine days later, descending after a blizzard suffocated one of the men in his tent, the survivors found the landscape of snow and ice deeply altered, and no sign of the lower camp where they had cached their snowshoes. World's Biggest Tsunami: The largest recorded tsunami with a wave 1720 feet tall in Lituya Bay, Alaska. A full-grown Alaskan brown bear on the rocky slope looked the size of a mite. One World Trade Center in New York City is only 56 feet taller. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake had begun near Cross Sound and ruptured 125 miles of the Fairweather fault, from Palma Bay to Icy Bay. 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