Saturday, February 27, 2010


Have you heard the news of the Earthquake in Chile?  It is rated as 8.8 on the Richter scale.  That is HUGE.  The one in Haiti was 7.0.

When I was 12, I lived in Anchorage, Alaska and we were there in the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964.  Luckily, we had just returned from a vacation to Florida the day before and my parents weren’t planning on going back to work till Monday.  So, we were all 3 home, together when the earthquake hit around 5pm.  It was measured as 8.5 on the Richter scale, but I understand it has since been ‘upgraded’ to 9.2.  Each whole number increase (7.0, 8.0) represents a tenfold increase in amplitude.  A 10.0 has never been recorded.  The largest ever recorded was in Chile in May 1960 … 9.5.

What I remember …

  • The telephone poles outside looked like they were mounted on top of ocean waves.  Each pole would alternately sway from side to side, almost touching ground each way.  The wires strung between them would snap taught when the poles on either end were on the top of their wave, leaning out and go slack when they were on the inside of the wave leaning in.
  • We had a television on a rolling cart and it would roll all the way across the room – then back.
  • We had a china ‘hutch’ cabinet that walked across the floor throwing plates and glasses as it went. 
  • My Dad positioned himself in a door frame with his back to one side and bracing his arms against the other side.  My Mom stood in front of him and I was in front.  My Dad’s braced arms held us in during the 5 minutes of riding our house like a bucking bronco.
  • 5 minutes is an eternity!
  • Our house sustained little damage – we were in the C Street valley which was pretty stable ground.
  • We were evacuated for the night due to predictions of a tsunami coming up the valley.  We spent the night in our car on higher ground.
  • Friends who lived in the ritzy section called Turnagain got to ride their houses down the hill as the clay type of ground actually liquefied with the shaking of the earthquake
  • There were not many deaths in Alaska because there weren’t many people.  The greatest number of deaths from that earthquake was in Crescent City California due to the tsunami.

My Dad (Tom Van Valkenburg) was a photographer at the time and he worked with a pilot to take several aerial photos of the quake’s effects.  Those photographs went to Washington D.C. and were part of the information that resulted in Alaska being declared a disaster area.  Here are some of the photos I had scanned a while back.  These came from a small magazine that was published back then.  I’ll have to hunt some more and see if I can find the original photos …

If you click on the slideshow, it will take you to the Picasa Web album where you can see larger versions.

To see larger versions, just click on the slide show.  That will take you to the Picasa Web album with larger copies.  In the Web Album, each photo will have a magnifying glass just above the upper right corner – that will enlarge it even more and you will be able to read the text on the picture.


roamingwhenwecan said...

Wow, very interesting. Thanks for sharing all this.

NomadRip said...

I hadn't heard anyone's eye-witness account of that one. That one lasted a long time, too.

Anonymous said...

Awwww....the imagry is too tiny! I can't really see the picture or read the text. Is there a way to enlarge them? To punch up the Picasa?

Chris said...

To see larger pictures, just click on the slideshow while it's playing. That should open up the Picasa Web album that it comes from and the larger pictures.
While in Picasa Web Albums, you can make any one picture even larger (you will be able to read the text on the picture) by clicking on the magnifying glass in the upper right.

Karen and Al said...

It's such a small world.

I too remember that earthquake. I was a 13 year old girl, living in Nebraska (SAC headquarters)

Our family had planned an Easter Dinner with friends but due to the earthquake my Dad was called in to work all week-end.

He was in charge of the Air Force photo lab, and anytime anything happened in the world (Cuban Missile Crisis, Alaska Earthquake, etc.) his lab would be on duty.

They would get the photos from the air force planes and develope them. That was back in the days before digital photos of course.

I wonder if some of the photos you have came from his lab? Small world huh?

Even though I was a long way away from Alaska and it was a long time ago, I also remember that week-end. Of course, not in the same way as you did!


Greg said...

ALL Rver's should understand the concept of earthquake- as the impact of driving your house across the roads of America at 55 miles an hour is more or less the equivalent of a 3.2 quake on a daily basis... We've been on a few roads that might have hit a 5! :0)
Enjoyed your recount very much....