Anatolian tectonic plate, north anatolian fault, historical earthquakes Greece, Attica, Earthquakes, Tsunami, , 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



George Pararas-Carayannis

(Excerpts from the Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska authored by Doak Cox and George Pararas-Carayannis, originally published in 1969 as a report of the the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics of the University of Hawaii and subsequently, in March 1976, published by the World Data Center A for Solid Earth Geophysics, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado with revisions by Lt. Jeffrey P. Calebaugh, NOAA Corps) of Hawaii and subsequently, in March 1976, published by the World Data Center A for Solid Earth Geophysics, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado with revisions)


This summary of the history of tsunamis in Alaska was prompted by the establishment of the Alaska Tsunami Warning System to cope with the special problems of providing useful warnings of tsunamis along the coastlines of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Subsequently this warning function of the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center was expanded to include the west coasts of Canada and the United States.

Tsunamis may be generated along the coast of Alaska and the Aleutian islands, and may have disastrous effects in the immediate area and elsewhere in the Pacific. This was demonstrated in 1946, 1957, in 1964 and subsequently. The times elapsing between the earthquakes with which these tsunamis are associated and the sweeping of the shores by the first tsunami waves are so short that the determination of significant potential tsunami hazard must be made much more rapidly than in the Tsunami Warning System that serves the Pacific as a whole and is centered at Honolulu, Hawaii. Indeed, the determination must be made, in many cases, prior to the collection and analysis of mareographic data, which is the main basis for analysis of tsunami hazard in the Pacific System. Hence, the Alaska Tsunami Warning System relies primarily on rapid analysis of seismic data telemetered to its operating center at Palmer and secondarily on mareographic data similarly telemetered.

Early Map of Alaska

The appraisal of the risk involved on the occasion of any seismic event, with or without evidence of tsunami wave generation, depends upon a knowledge of the range of tsunami effects that may be expected. In spite of the documentation and research that has been done on tsunami generation, propagation, and effects (Cox, 1963, 1964; Iida et al, 1967a, b), there are many uncertainties of critical importance to the problem of warning in general. These uncertainties are even greater in areas like Alaska, where the record of tsunamis is relatively short and incomplete and where the coastal configuration is unique.

The information on the Alaska tsunami of March 27, 1964, is voluminous, and the bibliography, very extensive. This report will provide for this tsunami no more than the briefest of summaries and an introduction to the literature now available. For earlier tsunamis, unfortunately, much less information is available and for tsunamis occurring more than a few decades ago, the information is generally fragmental and, in some cases, confusing. For the older tsunamis, this report contains essentially all of the information available and considerable discussion as to the reliability of such data.

The completeness of the record of Alaskan tsunamis and the reliability of its information have depended upon cultural development along the coasts. Alaska's history began over 200 years ago, but in some ways it is still a sparsely settled frontier. Hence, the history of Alaska is discussed in a separate section of this report with special reference to its exploration, the development of permanent settlements, and other aspects bearing on the probabilities that events such as tsunamis would have been not merely noted, but permanently recorded. The historical section is based mainly on the works of Bancroft (1886), Beaglehole (1966), Colby (1939), Friis (1967), Gruening (1954), and Heintzleman (1957). See Notes on Early Alaskan Settlements in the Brief History of Alaska.

Notes on Sources of Information on Tsunamis in Alaska

Settlement of much of the Aleutian and Alaskan coastline is so sparse, and the recorded history of that settlement so recent that some evaluation should be made of the completeness and significance of the recorded tsunamis.

It would seem that the chances of recording a tsunami were slight prior to 1784, when the first permanent Russian settlement was established on Kodiak Island. The first tsunami was reported 4 years later in the Shumagin Islands.

The history of the report is not known earlier than its publication by the Russian, Grewingk, in 1850, but it undoubtedly resulted from observations of the fur traders of the sea-otter station at Unga.

As a matter of fact, there was no positive report of an Alaskan tsunami from any of the Russian settlements in the period of Russian control. As noted in the Table of Tsunamis, Dall's (1870) report of a tsunami in 1827 seems confused, and the tsunami of 1856 (possibly resulting from a volcanic explosion in Unimak Strait) was picked up from reports of whaling ships in the vicinity by Alexis Perry, the French cataloger of earthquakes.

C.W.C. Fuchs (1879), the German who carried on earthquake cataloging after Perry, is responsible for the publication of the report of the 1878 destruction of the Aleut village of Makushin by a tsunami. The report probably was sent to him from the white settlement of Iliuliuk on Unalaska.

Activities of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey were responsible for the records of tsunamis or tsunami-like waves of 1868 and 1883. The records of the Chilean tsunami of 1868 and of the Krakatoa blast waves of August 1883 were taken from a tide gauge probably established at Kodiak by a Coast Survey party. The party was headed by George Davidson who was sent to Alaska in the summer of 1867 in anticipation of formal transfer of Alaska, which was made in October 1867. The report of the October 1883 Augustine tsunami was published by Davidson himself (1884).

The U.S. Geological Survey is responsible for the completeness of the records of the tsunami events of September 1899 and also those of 1908 and l911 . The effects of the 1899 Yakutat earthquake were so large as to be inescapable, but they would not have been reported reliably nor in detail except for the special survey made by Tarr and Martin 1912. Their special interest in related events in Alaska persisted until their report was published, and hence led to the reports of February 1908 and September 1911, which would otherwise have escaped notice.

The 1901 tsunami provides an example of how confused and indefinite such reports can be, without automatic recording and if no professional competence is involved in data collection except at long range and without adequate checking. In spite of mareographic recording of a tsunami more than 60 years earlier at Kodiak, the Aleutian tsunami of 1929 would not have been noted except for its mareographic recording over 2,000 miles away in Hawaii. However, since 1938 mareographic operations seem to have been sufficiently adequate to assume the recording of all except small and local tsunamis.


The Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska is too voluminous to be provided in this Page. It will be provided at some future time. However a brief description of the following major tsunamis in Alaska for the second half of the 20th Century is provided. Follow the links. Additionally, a very comprehensive bibliography of tsunamis in Alaska was compiled in preparation of the Catalog. Most of these original references were obtained, translated (if necessary) and reviewed by the authors. The bibliography of Tsunamis in Alaska is provided separately.


1946 Aleutian Tsunami

1957 Aleutian Tsunami

1964 Alaskan Tsunami



Early Map of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands


Doak. C. Cox and Pararas-Carayannis George, A Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska. Data Report Hawaii Inst.Geophys. Mar. 1968

Doak C. Cox and Pararas-Carayannis, George, and . A Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska. World Data Center A- Tsunami Report, No. 2, 1969, Hawaii)

Doak Cox and Pararas-Carayannis George, (with revisions by Lt. Jeffrey P. Calebaugh, NOAA Corps) A Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska. World Data Center A for Solid Earth Geophysics, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado )




Links to other Pages

The Big One - The Next Great California Earthquake (A new edition of the book)


Now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major bookstores. A signed by the author copy can be also ordered by contacting directly by email Aston Forbes Press.

Other Miscellaneous Non-technical Writings

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