Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fireside chat: Lituya Bay

photo from

We have been hitting the Forest Service Lectures this winter. The best so far - record breaking in fact - was the Lituya Bay Lecture by Lynn Schooler. I've read his book, The Blue Bear, and was excited for this opportunity to hear about his new book, Walking Home and the megatsunami at Lituya Bay. Mr. X had heard from some old timers about this incredible place, but Lynn did a remarkable job of describing the bay - reading from his book and using a map and photographs to set the scene.

We arrived 45 minutes early for the lecture and still had to sit in the overflow. We sat by some coworkers of Mr. X and they told us about how dangerous the bar is into the bay. Apparently when the 7 mile x 9 mile bay empties with the tide, it rushes out of a very narrow bar and there are rapids 1/4 mile into the ocean. The visitor's center filled up and Lynn knowing there were many people out in the lobby asked us to "Yee-haw" if we could hear him okay. The place roared.

And then Lynn started telling the story of the bay, the 7.9 1958 earthquake, 1700' high tsunami and the people who survived the wave in the bay. It was chilling and thrilling. Quite the night.

At the end, Lynn played for us a recording of the radio traffic the night of the July 9, 1958, including the urgent Howard G. Ulrich who says that he needs to exit the bay immediately fearing that a second tidal wave may strike and thinking the world is coming to an end.

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