The earthquake that caused the largest wave on record
On the night of July 9, 1958, Alaska’s Lituya Bay suffered one of the most dramatic events in recorded history. An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale shook the entire bay. The problem was not only the earthquake itself, but the wave of more than half a kilometer high that it generated. The biggest wave we have on record.
The Fairweather Fault is located near Lituya Bay in Alaska. It is therefore a zone of seismic activity that every several decades suffers the occasional considerable earthquake. However, the 1958 one was a particularly tall one. To that was added another important factor: a rock slide that ended in the water and generated a massive wave never seen before.
The estimated amount of rock that fell from about 900 meters high is about 30 million cubic meters. Such rock madness did nothing but cause a gigantic wave. Although there is no graphic documentation of the moment or tools that could have recorded it, there is later evidence.
We have found the evidence decades later, when the remains of the destruction caused by the wave are still visible. A nearby hillside was analyzed in 2010 and the change of vegetation it suffered was discovered. At around 500 meters high you can see a significant change of vegetation younger than the one at the top. Geologists and researchers They estimate that the wave could reach 524 meters in height.
Ravaging a whole bay
The relatively closed place that is Lituya Bay did not help to lessen the catastrophe. Being a space of water surrounded by land the wave swept away in all its splendor with everything that was close, likewise, it allowed her to be taller by having less space on the sides. It was so large that it swept through the surrounding land and eventually came out into the Gulf of Alaska.
The largest settlement area at that time was Yakutat, an area that suffered relatively moderate damage considering the scale of the earthquake and the size of the wave. It is known that a total of three people died kilometers from the bay, on the island of Yakutat because part of it ended up buried in the sea. Returning to the bay itself, two people in a fishing boat were also washed away.
The next computer simulation Based on subsequent evidence, it shows us how the wave’s impact was:
Via | NASA