Natural History

Lituya Bay, Alaska
July 7, 1958: Lituya Bay, Alaska

          -An earthquake of magnitude 8.3 occurred about 13 miles outside of Lituya Bay (seen below) causing a landslide within the bay.  This landslide generated a tsunami inside the bay that reached a maximum run-up height of 524 meters and generated a wave that quickly flowed out of the bay.  The estimated volume of the landslide was 30 mill. cubic meters (Henrik Kofoed-Hansen) and came sliding off the face of the slope at a high velocity.  

View of Lituya Bay, Alaska courtesy of

The landslide was of such large proportions that it truncated the terminus of the Lituya Glacier that was flowing out into the bay.  The mass was so extensive as to cause the complete destruction and erosion down to the bedrock of the shore all the way out of the bay.  Landslide generated tsunamis are even more peculiar and unpredictable than the common open ocean tsunami wave.  There is no warning if the event takes place on a coastline, the wave will quickly rise and propagate, devastating anything in its path as it quickly crashes to land.

Past Tsunamis and Their Wave of Destruction

   -December 26,2004: Indian Ocean

          -Considered by many to be the worst Tsunami is human history, this giant wave was created in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra.  The magnitude of the epicenter of the earthquake was a 9.0, caused by the Indian plate subducting under the Burma plate.  150,000 were dead by the end of the first day after the tsunami hit the coast of 11 different countries. In all 280,000 people lost their lives and billions of dollars in damage.

   -November 29, 1975: Hawaiian Islands
-A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck in the Pacific Ocean not far off the coast of Hawaii.  Waves ranged from 6 to 14 meters as they caused devastation around the island.  This tsunami claimed two lives and $1.4 million dollars in damage.   

1975 Hawaiian Island wave heights in meters (

   -March 28, 1964: Prince William Sound, Alaska
-A magnitude 8.4 earthquake took place in the Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska.  This tsunami took 122 lives         and caused $106 million in damage.  Due to the area and magnitude of this earthquake multiple tsunamis were generated.  Initial tsunamis from the earthquake, followed by the generation of later tsunamis from landslides and mass undersea movement following the earthquake caused substantial damage.

   -May 22, 1960: Chilean Tsunami
Off the southern coast of Chile a magnitude 8.6 earthquake took place.  A Pacific Ocean event tsunami, as it claimed nearly 200 lives in Chile and another 61 lives in Hawaii later that day.  Due to the year and location of this tsunami and earthquake event, estimates place death tolls anywhere between 490 and 2,290. 

   -March 9, 1957: Aleutian Tsunami
-Off the coast of Alaska in the Aleutian Islands a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck.  No lives were lost due to this tsunami, however, due to wave propagation; Hawaii suffered the most damage totaling $5 million.

   -April 1, 1946: Aleutian Tsunami
-A magnitude 7.4 earthquake took place off the coast of the Aleutian Island, Alaska in what is known as Aleutian trench. 


Location of 1946 Aleutian Tsunami (

          Due to the location of the this tsunami event, little of the wave made the mainland because of the way the Aleutian Islands create an tsunami energy barrier, where the waves energy is dissipated and no longer can make mainland.   From the picture above, Scotch Cap was a warning transmission location, but was wiped out from the tsunami hitting the islands.  With Scotch Cap gone, Hawaii received no warning of the incoming tsunami.  159 people died and property damage was substantial.

   -November 18, 1929: Grand Banks, Newfoundland Tsunami
-Grand Banks "submarine" landslide that was activated after a magnitude of 7.2 earthquake.  The landslide added to the tsunami's power as it killed 29 people, the highest death toll for a tsunami in Canada.

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