Lituya Bay Close Up

The rockslide occurred along the eastern wall of the Gilbert Inlet (see figure above). The mass of rock striking the surface of the bay created a giant splash, which sent water surging to a height of 1720 feet (see figure above) across the point opposite the inlet. This initial sheet of water stripped all vegetation from the point, leaving a bare rock face, which shows up nicely on the map above, and in two of the photos below. The in addition to this initial splash, the rock slide also sent a giant local tsunami sweeping across the bay. Eyewitness accounts from the few unfortunate boaters who happened to be anchored in the bay for night, state that the wave was at least 100 feet tall at its maximum height near the head of the bay. Two of these boaters were killed by the wave while making a run for open water, the rest, amazingly, survived. The tsunami inundated approximately 5 square miles of land along the shores of Lityua Bay, sending water as far as 3,600 feet inland (see figure above), and clearing millions of trees. The barren shoreline left by the tsunami shows up nicely on the map above, and provides a good approximation of the inundation area. The photos below, taken at Lituya Bay after the tsunami, illustrate of magnitude of this event.

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