The Great Quake : How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed our Understanding of the Planet

by Henry Fountain

Hardcover, 2017

Status

Available

Collection

Publication

New York : Crown, 2017.

Description

"In the tradition of Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm, a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in recorded history in North America--the 1964 Alaskan earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and obliterated the coastal village of Chenega--and the scientist sent to look for geological clues to explain the dynamics of earthquakes, who helped to confirm the then controversial theory of plate tectonics. On March 27, 1964, at 5:36 p.m., the biggest earthquake ever recorded in North America--and the second biggest ever in the world, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale--struck Alaska, devastating coastal towns and villages and killing more than 130 people in what was then a relatively sparsely populated region. In a riveting tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain, in his first trade book, re-creates the lives of the villagers and townspeople living in Chenega, Anchorage, and Valdez; describes the sheer beauty of the geology of the region, with its towering peaks and 20-mile-long glaciers; and reveals the impact of the quake on the towns, the buildings, and the lives of the inhabitants. George Plafker, a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey with years of experience scouring the Alaskan wilderness, is asked to investigate the Prince William Sound region in the aftermath of the quake, to better understand its origins. His work confirmed the then controversial theory of plate tectonics that explained how and why such deadly quakes occur, and how we can plan for the next one"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member little-gidding
Ostensibly about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake (Good Friday earthquake) and its repercussions on the earth sciences, this book accomplishes a lot more than that in its
LibraryThing member ecataldi
I love non-fiction and The Great Quake did an excellent job discussing the Good Friday Earthquake that hit Alaska in 1964 and going in depth about what was known about earthquakes and geology at the time. Henry Fountain includes lots of photos and personal testimonies to show just how devastating this quake was and how it changed our understanding of the world. The theory of plate tectonics (a term not even coined yet) was still hotly debated and scientists understanding and research of earthquakes was rudimentary at best. The great quake helped prove the plate tectonics theory, a concept I thought had been around for much longer than it really was. A deeply interesting read although sometimes it did get a little too bogged down in scientific details.… (more)
LibraryThing member irregularreader
On March 27th, 1964, at 5:36pm, the most powerful earthquake in the United States (measuring a 9.2 on the Richter Scale) struck Southeastern Alaska. The quake leveled large swathes of Valdez and Anchorage, tidal waves inundated native villages (and in fact killed people as far away as California), and fires destroyed several small towns. Roads and rail lines were ripped apart, isolating entire regions of the sparsely populated state. In the aftermath of the quake, scientists studying the event would uncover data which would change how geologists viewed the world, and bring a previously dismissed theory into prominence.

This is an incredibly readable telling of the effects of the Great Alaska Earthquake, and the aftershocks felt by the scientific community after the Earth stopped shaking. Fountain has written a history book in the vein of Erik Larsen’s Isaac’s Storm. You’re going to find far more than just a tale of an Earthquake here. Fountain provides background on the major players, as well as the history of Alaska, and the fields of geology and seismology. As a result, The Great Quake is a readable and informative story of an unimaginable disaster, and the science underlying the event.

Fans of narrative nonfiction will find a lot to like here. The 1964 Alaskan earthquake is largely forgotten in the Lower 48, but the data derived from this disaster continues to reverberate into the modern day.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
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Language

Barcode

6695
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