WATER IN YOUR HOME CAN BE A PROBLEM. IN LITYUYA BAY, IT WAS A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EVENT
In the process of writing our blogs, we at SimpleSENCE conduct a great deal of online research that leads us to amazing facts about water – especially about its incredibly destructive power. In fact, it is that destructive power that led us to the creation of the SimpleSENCE Water Leak and Freeze Detector. We wanted to develop an easy-to-setup and easy-to-use solution to an extremely common household problem. Because the ability of water - even in the smallest amounts - to destroy property, cause financial stress, and generally uproot homeowners’ lives cannot be overstated.
Major floods, rogue tidal waves, bursting dams – we didn’t create SimpleSENCE with the intention of detecting such devastating water-based events. Just the common, everyday leaks that, left unattended for long periods of time, can quite literally, bring the house down.
In the midst of our research, however, we often come across items reminding us that water in massive amounts is a powerful force of nature. On occasion, an article on just how overwhelming these large-scale aquatic anomalies can be will catch our attention and will not let go. It is so “off the chart,” in terms of size, damage caused, or overall magnitude that it (pardon the pun) just blows us out of the water.
Which brings us to a rather unassuming place called Lituya Bay, Alaska.
Lituya Bay is a quiet fjord located on the Fairweather Fault in the northeastern part of the Gulf of Alaska. It is a T-shaped bay with a width of 2 miles and a length of 7 miles. Pristine in appearance, this spot offers the only sheltered anchorage for a long stretch of Southeast Alaska coast. And up until July 8, 1958, it was primarily known as a spot where a number of tidal waves – some measuring as high as 490 feet – had appeared over the previous century.
That all changed on July 9, 1958, at 10:16 p.m. local time, when history was made. An earthquake measuring between 7.7 and 8.3 in magnitude struck along the Fairweather Fault, loosening about 40 million cubic yards of rock. This mass of rock plunged from an altitude of almost 3000 feet down into the waters of nearby Gilbert Inlet. The impact force of the rockfall generated a tsunami that crashed against the southwest shoreline of the inlet.1063 Eiffel Tower.
The wave hit with such power that it swept completely over the spur of land that separates Gilbert Inlet from the main body of Lituya Bay. Moving at almost 100 miles per hour, the wave then continued down the entire length of Lituya Bay, over La Chaussee Spit and into the Gulf of Alaska. Millions of trees were uprooted and swept away by the wave (photos show a spruce tree snapped off by the wave - seven miles from the source of the wave). Hillsides were completely denuded and still show the effects of the wave, 62 years later. Thankfully, with only a few boaters in the immediate area, the death toll was limited to just five people.
The Lituya Bay tsunami is universally recognized as the largest and most significant megatsunami in modern times; it forced a re-evaluation of large-wave events and the recognition of impacts, events, rockfalls, and landslides as causes of very large waves.
And it was 1720 feet high.
Let that number wash over you for a second. 1720 feet high. Almost 500 feet taller than the Empire State Building. It boggles the mind to try to imagine looking straight up at a wave almost a third of a mile high and literally not being able to see the top. What’s more, it absolutely dwarves the next highest tidal waves ever recorded which, depending on the source, ranged from 300 – 500 feet. By comparison, the largest tidal wave recorded in the Southern Hemisphere was off the coast of New Zealand on May 8, 2018 at a puny 78 feet.
The scale of this wave was so much greater than any ordinary tsunami, it eventually led to the new category of megatsunamis – tidal waves taller than 328 feet.Needless to say, you wouldn’t need a SimpleSENCE to detect such a gargantuan water activity. We’re far better suited to the trickles and dribbles you’ll find under your sink or near your water heater. Still, because we’re so fascinated with water, we occasionally will share a story or fact about our planet’s most valuable natural resource that is so awe-inspiring that we simple can’t keep it to ourselves. And we’re certain the Lituya Bay megatsunami fits the bill.