Scientists Solve 50-Year-Old Mystery of Alaska Tsunami

For 50 years, scientists struggled to understand what sparked a devastating tsunami that leveled a remote village in Alaska following the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake.

But thanks to detailed seafloor images, they have solved the mystery. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey now believe a series of underwater landslides as deep as 1,150 feet were responsible for the massive waves that swept through the village of Chenega in Prince William Sound in 1964, destroying all but two buildings and killing 23 people.

Nine people died in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, from the 9.2 magnitude quake, the second largest in recorded history, according to the Associated Press. The earthquake caused a trans-ocean tsunami that brought waves to the Alaskan towns of at devastated Valdez, Seward and Whittier and down the West Coast. Four campers on a beach died at Newport, Oregon. A dozen died in the Northern California community of Crescent City.

“It is exciting to see the technology evolve so we can now get high-resolution images of the seafloor that we could not back then and to pinpoint the most likely source for the waves. After 50 years, this new work confirms our original inference that it was probably landslide-generated waves that devastated Chenega so many years ago, but we had no adequate submarine data to define either the size or location of the landslide sources,” USGS geologist emeritus George Plafker who, with colleague Larry Mayo, was one of the first responders and wrote some of the early geological field reports on surface effects of the Chenega waves in 1965, said in a statement. (Read more from “Scientists Solve 50-Year-Old Mystery of Alaska Tsunami” HERE)

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