In the best-selling tradition of Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm, The Great Quake is a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history - the 1964 Alaska earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega - and the geologist who hunted for clues to explain how and why it took place.
At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake - the second most powerful in world history - struck the young state of Alaska. The violent shaking, followed by massive tsunamis, devastated the southern half of the state and killed more than 130 people. A day later George Plafker, a geologist with the US Geological Survey, arrived to investigate. His fascinating scientific detective work in the months that followed helped confirm the then-controversial theory of plate tectonics.
In a compelling tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain combines history and science to bring the quake and its aftermath to life in vivid detail. With deep on-the-ground reporting from Alaska, often in the company of George Plafker, Fountain shows how the earthquake left its mark on the land and its people - and on science.
"The Great Quake explains how one of North America's worst recent natural disasters led to a fascinating insight. Henry Fountain offers a gripping tale of loss, heroism, and, ultimately, discovery." (Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction)
"Henry Fountain knows earthquakes, and he knows how to spin a yarn. The Great Quake is the fascinating result. It takes meticulous research and real narrative skill to tell a story that moves this fast yet still feels so complete. The book shines on two levels: as a portrait of two quirky frontier communities before, during and after a stunning disaster, and as the story of an unpretentious geologist whose brilliant analysis of the great quake's causes provided crucial backing for one of the biggest ideas in all of science." (Dan Fagin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tom's River)
"For five terrifying minutes in 1964, the earth shook beneath Anchorage, Alaska. It devastated the city, and towns and villages throughout the state. In this fast-paced, engaging account of that disaster, Henry Fountain tells us what it was like to be there. His interviews with fortunate survivors bear witness to the pluck and determination of the human spirit - and reveals the better side of our natures in times of crisis. Read this book to better understand nature's power - and our human resilience. Fountain's riveting, 'you were there' account pulls you in, and keeps you turning the pages to find out who survived - and how." (Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise, a New York Times best-seller)
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Too little about the quake
- Frank Huffman