National Geographic : 1964 Jul
motion. It was the motion of a tsunami, a seismic sea wave, whose effect onshore can be that of a bat tering ram. The time was 5:36. In those agonizing moments, the 49th State suf fered damage estimated as high as S750,()00,()00-() slightly more than 100 times what it cost to buy Alaska from Russia in 1867. On the floor of the United States Senate, Ernest Gruening of Alaska declared that the disaster "surpasses in magnitude that suffered by any state of the Union in our Nation's entire history." : Fortunately, the loss of life proved far below first estimates. After three weeks, Alaska announced 115 people had been lost; 4,500 were rendered homeless. Control Tower Reveals Earthquake's Power I arrived at Anchorage International Airport by jet from Seattle two days after the first shock. Like my fellow passengers-many of them Alaskans hurrying home to what could be either minor inconvenience or complete ruin-I spent the flight up the state's pan handle hunched by a window for a glimpse of the damage. Far below, the land lay seemingly serene and unscarred beneath its white mantle. Experience was soon to teach me that, even during a treetop pass in an airplane, the eve can overlook frightful disaster. There was no overlooking the Anchorage control tower. It was a sickening jumble of twisted steel gird ers and shattered glass, in which the controller had died. The capriciousness of the earthquake began to sink in-the terminal beneath the tower seemed vir tually unharmed. Aside from the horror that had once been the Turn again residential area, Anchorage's greatest ruin was 4th Avenue, its main street and amusement center (pages 124-5). There was something uncannily se lective in the destruction of 4th Avenue. For the most part, the street's south side is lined with thriving stores, a fur shop or two, and small company offices. On the north side stood a scattering of dingy cafes, tired amusement parlors, and an over-age movie theater. oSenalor (irul'iinl vividly Iortr'ay(l his talte for NATIONAL ( G .\ni'l in ".Alaska I'lruiill Join> the t'nion," July, l(s). KO DIAK sn o i' s entitle ve ails to di guise the hideous \\reckage that was Koliak. Quake-slpawned floodwtaters ravaged the (lo\\lntown area, sinking dozens of fishiLn boats and hurling others atop homes an1(stores, blocks in land from the waterfront. But, like stricken Alaskans every\vhere, Kodiak's people tried to take the cata. trophe in stride, and even managed an occasional wry smile. Said one man to ('itv Manager Ralph Jones: "I wished you every success when you cam paigned to clean up Kodiak, butt this is ridiculous" Weeks after the quake, Kodiak's foundations ap peared to have permanently slumped some five feet. )ther areas along Alaska's southern coast suffered similar settling or rising of the land.