This case study focuses on events that took place in 1958 off of the Alaskan panhandle in Lituya Bay when an earthquake induced landslide triggered a 1,720 ft. high wave, making it the largest wave in recorded history. Amazingly, this domino effect of hazards only claimed two lives but the landscape will be forever changed. This particular part of Alaska is especially susceptible to landslides due to an excessive amount of precipitation along its mountainous terrain and its extremely close proximity to an active fault. The Fairweather Fault is a strike-slip fault that runs directly through the Lituya Bay inlets, Gilbert and Crillon. The Fairweather Fault is equivalent in size to the San Andreas Fault and is responsible for the vertical movement in 1958 that loosened 90 million tons of rock from an elevation of 3,000 ft. at the head of the bay. The impact of the rock slide was powerful enough to generate an enormous wall of water capable of uprooting millions of trees within seconds from surrounding cliffs
This glacial fjord is almost completely landlocked. This was likely its greatest attribute in containing the damage within the bay. One reason for this was the cliff wall that served as a natural barrier while receiving the initial brunt of the wave. However, this massive displacement of water was forced south through an opening between the two inlets. This secondary wave varied in height, gradually reducing in size down the 7 mile long bay while consistently devastating the vegetated shorelines and destroying 2 of the 3 fishing boats on the bay. Because the surviving boat was the furthest from the point of impact, it was able to ride the wave for the better half of a mile until clearing the deposition bar (spit) at the shallow bay entrance where the wave quickly subsided in the open ocean.
Lituya Bay is an uninhabited area of land that is not accessible by roads and used mostly by fishermen because it is one of few suitable places to anchor in a 50 mile radius. That being said, the surviving boat’s distress signal had been responded to by other nearby fishing boats who soon came to witness the aftermath and aid in the recovery of any survivors. Again, Lituya Bay is an unpopulated section of land and to this day, the tiny Alaskan town of Yakutat remains the closest populated area which is over 80 miles away so preparations for this unusual hazard are limited to its more typical precursors. Even so, mitigation is almost an impossible conception against such a force of nature. The only feasible mitigation is to establish distance between oneself and potentially hazardous areas known for their record breaking anomalies.
I chose this case for two honest reasons. The first being that the chain effect of “natural hazards” would afford me an adequate amount of material to devise a case study of quality while maintaining the reader’s interest. However, I didn’t take into account the lack of answers toward questions that did not apply due to my case study’s non-existent population vulnerability, recovery phases, and preparations. Another reason why I chose this case study was to simply indulge in my fascination with “Mega Tsunamis” ever since I watched a dramatized documentary based on “worst case scenarios”. For some reason I’ve loved waves for as long as I can remember and that has not change with age.
< here you are able to see the severity of natural deforestation
This isn’t a great simulation and it contradicts some of my sources but it sums up the event in 37 seconds