2.@henryfountain: This quake made scientists curious about “floating continents” – later the plate tectonic theory. George Plafker, geologist, rushed there, got into the mechanism, the tectonics, of it—& spent the entire summer measuring barnacles.

Dec 02, 2018, 09:29 PM

Photo: Alaska Earthquake March 27, 1964. Fissures in Seward Highway near The Alaska Railroad station at Portage, at the head of Turnagain Arm. Many bridges were also damaged. At some places, tectonic subsidence and consolidation of alluvial materials dropped both highway and railroad below high-tide levels. (Photo by U.S. Army) Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

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The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet, by Henry Fountain This quake made scientists curious about “floating continents” – what became the plate tectonic theory. George Plafker, a field geologist, rushed to where the quake had occurred & really got into the mechanism – the tectonics – of it. George then spent the entire summer measuring barnacles. .. .. .. How a 9.2 earthquake in Alaska in 1964 changed our understanding is explained in 'The Great Quake' / Geological tumult is all around us in the American West, in our vertiginous topography and in our heads — fear of the Big One. But a little over half a century ago there came what, befitting its magnitude and locale — in the "Great Land" of the Aleut — may be called the Great One. Henry Fountain's "The Great Quake" is dedicated to the five terrifyingly convulsive minutes around dinnertime on March 27, 1964, when the forces of geological upheaval, normally beneath our threshold of perception, violently obtruded into human time, reconfiguring not only the landscape of south-central Alaska but our understanding of earthquakes and the risk posed today by the Big One and Really Big One. For an idea of its power, consider the 1994 temblor that shook Northridge, killing 57, lasted a brisk 30 seconds at most. The Alaskan earthquake registered 9.2 on the Richter Scale (many times stronger than the biggest quake predicted along the San Andreas fault), making it the most forceful tremor ever recorded in North America. Globally, it's second only to the 9.5 Chilean earthquake of 1960. Had it struck any sort of population density, the loss of life would have been calamitous. As it was, 131 people died (including 16 in Oregon and California — swept away by tsunamis that inundated the West Coast and points south). Fountain locates part of his story in the two communities that bore the brunt — Chenega and Valdez. They're emblematic of a still-germinal Alaskan state (admitted to the Union in 1959): a native fishing village, population 75 — mostly related to one another — and old gold rush boomtown numbering 841 souls sustained since then as a transportation hub.