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Giant Waves in Lituya Bay, Alaska

Almost immediately, the earthquake of July 9, 1958, was followed by a massive wave that splashed to a maximum height of 1,720 feet on the southeast spur of Gilbert Inlet at the headland of Lituya Bay, then by a wave that wiped everything in its path over an area of about 4 square miles (10.4 sq. kms) on either side of the Bay.

There were three fishing boats anchored near the entrance of Lituya Bay on the day the giant waves occurred. One boat was sunk and the two people on board lost their lives. The other two boats were able to ride the waves. Among the survivors were William A. Swanson, and Howard G. Ulrich, who provided accounts of what they observed. Miller (1960) documented in great detail all accounts, measurements, and observations related to the giant waves in Lituya Bay. Waves of cataclysmic proportions have repeatedly occurred in Lituya Bay in the past (Miller, 1954). Because of the unique geologic and tectonic conditions of Lituya Bay, giant waves will undoubtedly occur again in the future.

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