The Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964

Map of Alaska

On March 27, 1964 at 5:36pm local time (March 28 at 3:36 UTC) a great earthquake of magnitude 9.2 occurred in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska. The earthquake rupture started approximately 25 km beneath the surface, with its epicenter about 6 miles (10 km) east of the mouth of College Fiord, 56 miles (90 km) west of Valdez and 75 miles (120 km) east of Anchorage. The earthquake lasted approximately 4.5 minutes and is the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. history. It is also the second largest earthquake ever recorded, next to the M9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960.

The map shows the epicenter of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake (red star), caused when the Pacific Plate lurched northward underneath the North American Plate.

Scientific Background

Videos

Historic Photos and Videos

News and Media

Historic USGS Publications

Professional Papers

  • cover of USGS Profession Paper 541
  • cover of USGS Profession Paper 542
  • cover of USGS Profession Paper 543
  • cover of USGS Profession Paper 544
  • cover of USGS Profession Paper 545
  • cover of USGS Profession Paper 546

USGS published the results of investigations of the Alaska earthquake of March 27, 1964 in a series of six Professional Papers.

  • Professional Paper 541 is an introduction to the story of a great earthquake—its geologic setting and effects, the field investigations, and the public and private reconstruction efforts.
  • Professional Paper 542 describes the effects of the earthquake on Alaskan communities.
  • Professional Paper 543 describes the earthquake’s regional effects.
  • Professional Paper 544 describes the effects of the earthquake on the hydrologic regimen.
  • Professional Paper 545 describes the effects of the earthquake on transportation, communications, and utilities.
  • Professional Paper 546 is a summary of what was learned from a great earthquake about the bearing of geologic and hydrologic conditions on its effects, and about the scientific investigations needed to prepare for future earthquakes.

Conferences

See Also