Historic Earthquakes

1964 Great Alaska Earthquake
1964 March 28 03:36 UTC
1964 March 27 05:36 p.m. local time
Magnitude 9.2

Largest Earthquake in Alaska

Damage Photos

Damage Photos: 1   2   3

Photo of earthquake
Close-up of Government Hill elementary school, which was destroyed by the Government Hill landslide. Anchorage, Alaska.

Photo of earthquake
The waterfront at Seward a few months after the earthquake, looking north. Note the "scalloped" shoreline left by the underwater landslides that severed tracks in the railroad yard which dangle over the landslide scarp and the windrow-like heaps of railroad cars and other debris thrown up by the tsunami waves. Alaska.

Photo of earthquake
Uplifted sea floor at Cape Cleare, Montague Island, Prince William Sound, in the area of greatest recorded tectonic uplift on land (33 feet). The very gently slopping flat rocky surface with the white coating which lies between the cliffs and the water is about a quarter of a mile wide. It is a wave cut surface that was below sea level before the earthquake. The white coating consists of the remains of calcareous marine organisms that were killed by desiccation when the wave cut surface was lifted above the high tide during the earthquake.

Photo of earthquake
Uplifted dock on Hinchinbrook Island, Prince William Sound. Land in this area rose about 8 feet during the earthquake, and the dock can now be used only at extremely high tides.

Photo of earthquake
The stumps in the foreground are part of an ancient forest on Latouche island, Prince William Sound, that was submerged below sea level and buried in prehistoric times. Tectonic uplift of 9 feet during the earthquake raised these stumps above sea level once again, demonstrating that the area is tectonically restless.

Photo of earthquake
The amount of tectonic uplift on Glacier Island, Prince William Sound, was shown by the upper limit to which algae of the intertidal zone are on this sea cliff before and after the earthquake. The top of the band of green (still living) algae is near present (post earthquake) mean high tide. The top of the band of brown (desiccated) algae marks the approximate position of mean high tide before the earthquake. The difference in height between the top of the bands of living and of desiccated algae (3 feet) is a measure of the amount of tectonic uplift in this area.

Photo of earthquake
View southwest along the Hanning Bay fault scarp on southwest Montague Island in Prince William Sound. The Hanning Bay fault was reactivated during the earthquake. Its trace is marked by 10 to 15 feet high bedrock scarp which trends obliquely across the field of view from the right foreground to the left background. The fault trace lies between the uplifted wave cut surface that is coated white by desiccated calcareous marine organisms and borders the open ocean and the area of brown sand and silt in the cove. The ground northwest of the fault (right side of photo) was displaced upward as much as 16 feet with respect to the ground southeast of the fault during the earthquake, but both sides of the fault were uplifted with respect to sea level due to general tectonic uplift of the region. The fault plane dips steeply NW, or is vertical.

Photo of earthquake
Close-up view of tsunami damage along the waterfront at Kodiak.

Photo of earthquake
The Hillside apartment building in Anchorage was severely damaged by the earthquake and has been razed. It was a split-level, five story building with steel posts and lintels, concrete floor slabs, and unreinforced concrete block walls and partitions.

Damage Photos: 1   2   3

Photos from the Earth Science Photographs from the U.S. Geological Survey Library, by Joseph K. McGregor and Carl Abston, U.S. Geological Survey Digital Data Series DDS-21, 1995.