Thursday, July 10, 2008

Okay, that is made of awesome.

It turns out that this place in Alaska called Lituya Bay has had monster tsunamis in the past. I mean really monster.

It's a long skinny bay, two miles wide at the widest and 720ft deep, that narrows down to a channel only 33ft deep where it connects to the ocean. The inland end of it has cliffs and mountains 2,500ft to 6,000ft tall looming over the waters. On July 10, 1958, there was a bit of a slosh in this giant bathtub: three thousand vertical feet of cliff face and glacier, weakened by the nearby Fairweather Fault, slid into the water on the inland end of the bay, triggering a tsunami 525m high.

That's "m" as in meters. In other words, if you could have parked that longtime standard for height comparisons, the Empire State Building, on an island in the middle of the bay, the wave would have overtopped its radio mast by more than two hundred feet, like something in a Goretopian environmental fantasy movie.

I don't care who you are, 1700ft+ waves are just cool as dammit.


Anonymous said...

I have seen pictures of the devastation along the shoreline of that bay and it is amazing that anyone could survive a ride like that.

I believe it was featured on some Discovery channel show, Worlds Most Devastating Disasters or something along those lines. You can still see where the wave scoured the mountainside clear of trees.


Anonymous said...

I believe that's what you call "holy shit" water.

I kinda wish I had seen that, but I'm really glad I wasn't there.

Chris said...

Surf's up, dude!

Every once in a while, mother nature decides to let us know just how insignificant we really are.

Wonder what it would take to create a wave of this sort in San Fran bay?

Ahab said...

The cool part is that two fishing boats were able to ride the wave.

Anonymous said...

I was working as a cartographer at that time and remember seeing aerial pictures of one of the fishing boats sitting near the top of the ridge. The height above water and the steepness of the inlet walls made for an impressive picture.

DirtCrashr said...

The stuff that lifts up with the contintental shelf clinging at the edges of the world is unstable and held together by spit and seashells.
But that would be one helluva wave to surf.
A friend of mine in Massachusetts is has a phobia about an island out in the Azores with the capacity to slough half a mountain into the sea and send a tsunami speeding to the East Coast.

Billy Beck said...

"I believe it was featured on some Discovery channel show, Worlds Most Devastating Disasters or something along those lines."

I saw that, too. Don't recall 'zackly what it was. There was narration as the camera panned across the bay and it was amazing to realize what I was seeing in the frame: a wave on that scale ilustrated by the trees on the mountainside. That was pretty wild.

Steve Skubinna said...

Actually, so long as the wave is not breaking, it's height is of no real concern to a boat or ship. The book The Perfect Storm has the best layman's description of wave dynamics I have ever read.

The problem you get with extra large waves is when they begin to break, which typically happens when they get near shore. And of course, that's where all the stuff worth damaging is located. I'd much rather ride out a tsunami at sea than try to outrun it ashore.

Steve Skubinna said...

Incidentally, when that tsunami hit the coastlines of the Indian Ocean in 2004, I read that many of the casualties were folks who observed the waters recede and wandered out to see what was up.

Really, really bad idea. No mariner would have done something so suicidally stupid. If the waters go way way out,and it isn't tidal, get the hell away from the shore!

Anonymous said...

The Azorean Island is called Cumbra Veija I believe, and is prefectly position to A. Drop most of a mountain side into the ocean. B. send the wave action right at the NE United States.

Luckily it have to be be really bad luck to have the ENTIRE moutain side shake loose all at once, and B. I live in CT and we have Long Island there to soak up tidal waves.

DirtCrashr said...

Thanks Anonymous! Lucky thing about that Long Island absorption!