Alaska Science Forum

January 18, 2012

The giant waves of Lituya Bay

Article #2097

The largest splash wave ever recorded, in Southeast Alaska’s Lituya Bay, sheared a slope of trees and topsoil to a height of 1,740 feet above sea level.

Photo by Don Miller, U.S. Geological Survey.

One of the prettiest places in Southeast Alaska has felt some of nature’s most violent behavior.


Lituya Bay, on the Pacific coast about 100 miles southeast of Yakutat and 40 miles west of Glacier Bay, is the site of the largest splash wave ever recorded. In 1958, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake triggered a tremendous landslide into the ocean. The wave that followed reached 1,740 feet above sea level on a hill opposite the slide. The slide also triggered a wave more than 100 feet high that raced down the bay.


Neil Davis, a Fairbanks author, geophysicist, and emeritus professor at the Geophysical Institute