Tsunami, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Volcanic Eruptions and other Natural and Man-Made Hazards and Disasters - by Dr. George Pararas Carayannis

Tsunami, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Volcanic Eruptions and other Natural and Man-Made Hazards and Disasters


The March 9, 1957 Aleutian Tsunami

George Pararas-Carayannis

(Excerpts from the archives to the Catalog of Tsunami in the Hawaiian Islands. World Data Center A- Tsunami U.S. Dept. of Commerce Environmental Science Service Administration Coast and Geodetic Survey, May 1969)


On March 9, 1957, a great earthquake - the third largest earthquake the 20th century - with a moment magnitude of 8.3 occurred south of the Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. It generated a destuctive Pacific-wide tsunami.

Earthquake Time, Origin and Epicenter and Magnitude - The earthquake occurred on March 9, 1957, at 14:22 GMT. Its epicenter was at 51.5 North , 175.7 West., south of the Andreanof Islands. The quake's focal depth was less than 33 km.

Earthquake Aftershocks - A series of major aftershocks followed the main earthquake. Their epicenters were spread over a very large zone of about 1200 km.

The Tsunami of March 9, 1957

The earthquake of March 9, 1957 generated a Pacific-wide tsunami which caused considerable damage at coastal areas in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. It is estimated that the tsunami source area was about 850-900 km long.

Aleutian Islands - Near the generating area maximum waves of up to 22.8 meters occurred at the Aleutian island of Unimak, where sheep camps were washed away and docks and a concrete mixer were destroyed. At Atka, another Aleutian island, tsunami waves of up to 9.1 meters destroyed houses and washed away the harbor facility and its oil supply storage tanks. At Chernofski, waves drowned sheep at a sheep ranch. At the island of Adak, waves of about 4 meters destroyed all the structures at the harbor dock.

California - At Point Lobos (near Monterey), in California the reported tsunami wave height was 0.6m and two people were swept from rocks along the shoreline. At San Diego, the height of the tsunami wave was 0.2m.

The 1957 Tsunami in the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands suffered by far the greatest damage.

Midway Island - There was unusual flooding

Tsunami flooding at Midway Island.

Kauai - Maximum runup and damage occured at the northern part of the island of Kauai, near Haena point, where the tsunami waves reached heights of 16 m, almost twice the height of the 1946 tsunami. The waves destroyed bridges and sections of Kauai's highways were flooded. Houses were washed out and destroyed at Wainiha and Kalihiwai. A total of 75 homes were destroyed or badly damaged on Kaua'i - twice the number of those damaged by the 1946 tsunami.




Oahu - Maximum tsunami wave heiht of 23 ft. was reported.

Molokai - The tsunami waves with runup heights of more than 14 ft in Kalaupapa smashing the water pipeline.

Maui - At Kahului harbor the tsunami induced strong currents and extreme turbulence,

Hawaii - At Hilo, the maximum tsunami run-up was 3.9 m. The tsunam flooded the wharf by about two feet and damaged the warehouse and its contents . Numerous buildings along the waterfront were damaged. Coconut Island was covered by 1 m of water and the bridge connecting it to shore, as in 1952, was again destroyed. There was floding along the coastal streets. Fortunately, the 1957 tsunami was nothing like the 1946 tsunami and no lives were lost.

Tide Gauge record of the 1957 tsunami at Hilo, Hawaii

Elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands - The rest of the Hawaiian islands islands received waves averaging 2 to 3 m.

Total damage in the Hawaiian Islands was estimated at approximately $5 million (in 1957 dollars).

Photographs of tsunami inundating Laie Point , and along Kamehameha Highway at Waiaha Bay on the Island of Oahu (from ITIC and NGDC archives).


Cox D.C. and G. Pararas-Carayannis (1976). Catalog of tsunamis in Alaska revised 1976, World Data Center A, NOAA, Boulder, CO, Report SE-1, 43 pp.

Dudley, W.C. and M. Lee (1988). Tsunami!. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

Iida, K., D.C. Cox, and G. Pararas-Carayannis (1967). Preliminary catalog of tsunamis occurring in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii Inst. of Geophys., HIG-67-10, University of Hawaii, 131 pp.

Johnson, J.M. and K. Satake (1993). Source parameters of the 1957 Aleutian earthquake from tsunami waveforms, Geophys. Res. Lett., 20, 1487-1490.

Johnson, J.M., Y. Tanioka, L.J. Ruff, K. Satake, H. Kanamori, and L.R.Sykes (1994). The 1957 great Aleutian earthquake, Pageoph, 142, 3-28.

Kanamori, H. (1977). The energy release in great earthquakes, J. Geophys. Res. 82, 2981-2987.

Lander, J.F. (1996). Tsunamis Affecting Alaska 1737-1996, NGDC Key to Geophysical Record Documentation No. 31, NOAA, NESDIS, NGDC, 195 pp.

Lander, J. F. and P. A. Lockridge., (1989) United States Tsunamis. Publication 41-2. U.S. Department of Commerce. August .

Lander, J.F., P.A. Lockridge, and M.J. Kozuch (1993). Tsunamis Affecting the West Coast of the United States 1806-1992, NGDC Key to Geophysical Record Documentation No. 29, NOAA, NESDIS, NGDC, 242 pp.

Salsman, G.G. (1959). The tsunami of March 9, 1957, as recroded at tide stations, C&GS Technical Bulletin #6, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, C&GS, 18 pp.


Links to other Pages

NEW BOOK - THE BIG ONE- The Next Great California Earthquake

now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major bookstores. It can be also ordered by contacting directly Aston Forbes Press.



(©) Copyright 1963-2007 George Pararas-Carayannis / all rights reserved / Information on this site is for viewing and personal information only - protected by copyright. Any unauthorized use or reproduction of material from this site without written permission is prohibited.
Web Site Created By Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis / Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved