Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Aleutian Tsunami of 1946

Recently, March 11, 2011, a devastating earthquake registering possibly as high as a 9.0 magnitude rocked Japan and sent a massive tsunami roaring across the island leaving massive death and destruction in its wake.

Almost exactly 65 years ago on April 1, 1946 an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude hit the coast of Alaska, which resulted in what is known as the Aleutian Tsunami. The Scotch Cape Lighthouse on Unimak Island off the coast of Alaska was obliterated by a 135-foot wave from the tsunami, killing all five members of the lighthouse crew. To illustrate the power of the tsunami, the Scotch Cape Lighthouse stood approximately 100 feet tall and was constructed of reinforced concrete. Not only did it destroy the lighthouse but the tsunami was so powerful that it eroded much of the cliff that the lighthouse had stood on. Below you can see before and after photos of the lighthouse

The Scotch Cape Lighthouse Before the April 1, 1946 Tsunami

A Photograph of the Remains of the Scotch Cape Lighthouse After the April 1, 1946 Tsunami

The Aleutian Tsunami blasted outward across the Pacific causing waves of destruction. One of the hardest hit areas was the Hawaiian Islands.

The first wave from the Aleutian Tsunami slammed into Hawaii about 5 hours after the earthquake. The tsunami affected the islands of Hawaii, O'ahu, and Maui. It wiped out the Hilo waterfront among other coastal towns such as the town of Haena. Waves hitting the islands ranged from 33 feet tall to as high as 55 feet. Unlike today, no tsunami warning system existed in 1946 so the tsunami caught the people of Hawaii unprepared. Estimates are that the tsunami killed more than 170 people on the Hawaiian Islands.

A Photo of Waves of Water Hitting Pier No 1 in Hilo, Hawaii during the 1946 tsunami
(Note: The arrow in the photo points to a man struggling against a wave from the tsunami.)

Photo of destruction in Hilo, Hawaii caused by the 1946 tsunami

The recent Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami far exceeds the Aleutian Tsunami in both death toll and destruction. I’ve included links to several organizations in which one can contribute to help provide aid to the Japanese people.

International Medical Corp has an Emergency Relief Fund.

GlobalGiving.Org has a Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

The Red Cross branches across the globe are responding. The American Red Cross has a special link that one can contribute for relief.

ShelterBox has also established a special fund.

Please consider giving to the charity of your choice.


Arelquin said...

My parents were in the "Great Alaskan Quake of 1964". That 9.2 quake and resulting tsunami were the second largest ever recorded at that time. I've seen the photos and seeing Japan reminded me of that...on a greater scale of course because of the population.

Larry Amyett, Jr said...

Thank you for taking the time to post about your parents experience with the 1964 Quake and sharing this. Very interesting.