1.@henryfountain: A barely perceptible rumbling, then violent shaking & rolling & the sound of a freight train; lasted for 4-1/2 minutes. The schoolteacher sees that all the water has drained out of the cove. Children were playing down at the beach.

Dec 02, 09:28 PM

Photo: Good Friday Earthquake at Turnagain Arm

Permissions: This image is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, taken or made as part of an employee's official duties.

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The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet, by Henry Fountain

March 27, 1964, about 5:30 in the afternoon. Chenega, in Prince William Sound, in the Gulf of Alaska: a rumbling, barely perceptible, then quickly into a violent shaking and rolling and the sound of a freight train right next to their ear. Alaska accounts for about one-sixth of the earthquakes in the world; this lasted for four-and-a-half minutes. The schoolteacher is from California – and sees that all the water has drained out of the cove. Children were playing down at the beach.

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The Great Quake is a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history -- the 1964 Alaska earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega -- and the geologist who hunted for clues to explain how and why it took place. At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2. earthquake – the second most powerful in world history – struck the young state of Alaska. The violent shaking, followed by massive tsunamis, devastated the southern half of the state and killed more than 130 people. A day later, George Plafker, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, arrived to investigate. His fascinating scientific detective work in the months that followed helped confirm the then-controversial theory of plate tectonics. In a compelling tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain combines history and science to bring the quake and its aftermath to life in vivid detail. With deep, on-the-ground reporting from Alaska, often in the company of George Plafker, Fountain shows how the earthquake left its mark on the land and its people -- and on science.

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  The Great Quake is rich with...revelations; and I felt grateful, even giddy, as I read them. Fountain's book is like a gift box: Open the lid to peek at the treasures of the Earth. I could geek out on such details for a month." --New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice

“In his entertaining and enlightening book, The Great Quake, Henry Fountain tells the story of what is sometimes called ‘Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake…’ Fountain sets the scene for an abrupt wake-up call, and his description of how it unfolds is gripping.” --San Francisco Chronicle

"As elegant as a Beethoven symphony...journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America's largest known earthquake." --Nature

"The Great Quake is an elegant showcase of how the progressive work of numerous scientists over time…can be pieced together into an idea that reshapes how we see and understand the planet." --Science News Magazine

"Mr. Fountain weaves a compelling scientific detective story." --The Wall Street Journal

“Fountain isn’t a showy writer, but there’s a fever-dream quality to his account of those five minutes that ‘made the earth ring like a bell’ that captures the hallucinogenic oddness of a world off-kilter, out-of-joint, suddenly uncooperative. Combinations of words with no earthly business being together occur…Interleaving snapshots of a lost world, the primal power of nature and high science, The Great Quake is an outstanding work of nonfiction.” --The LA Times

“Fountain atmospherically depicts life in the frontier communities…that were razed when ‘the earth (rang) like a bell’ for five minutes. The narrative is haunted by images that live long in the mind, not least a crimson tide of dead red snapper flushed from t...