Southeast was hit again when Yakutat Bay suffered a shaker on Sept. 3, 1899, and again on Sept. 10. Since there were no villages in the vicinity, the 30-foot wave that hit land did little damage and only a few Natives and prospectors were eyewitnesses. Another quake shook up Lituya Bay, 80 miles away, in 1936 that triggered an enormous wave that spread debris over the ocean for 50 miles. But that was just a curtain raiser to the main event.
In 1958, all hell broke lose at Yakutat and Lituya Bay on a fine June evening. An eyewitness explained what he saw around Lituya Bay:
“The mountains were shaking something awful, with slides of rocks and snow. But what I noticed mostly was the glacier, the north one they call Lituya Glacier.
“I know you can’t ordinarily see that glacier from where I was anchored, and people shake their heads when I tell them I saw it that night. I can’t help it if they don’t believe me. I know the glacier is hidden by the point when you are in the cove, but I know what I saw that night, too.
“The glacier had risen in the air and moved forward so it was in sight. It must have risen several hundred feet. I don’t mean it was just hanging in the air. It seemed to be solid, but it was jumping and shaking like crazy. Big chunks of ice were falling off the face of it and down into the water … suddenly the glacier dropped back out of sight and there was a big wall of water going over the point.”
A geologist who studied the area doesn’t shake his head in disbelief at the story.
“It’s perfectly plausible. The glacier lies right on the fault line and almost anything could have happened,” he said.
Earthquake evidence attests to Mother Nature’s awesome power throughout Alaska’s past and seems to mock man’s puny efforts to tame her. So far, however, she hasn’t succeeded in shaking us off the land … yet!
From Aunt Phil’s Trunk, Volume 1
By Laurel Bill