The Great Quake

The Great Quake

How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"In the tradition of Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm, a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in recorded history in North America--the 1964 Alaskan earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and obliterated the coastal village of Chenega--and the scientist sent to look for geological clues to explain the dynamics of earthquakes, who helped to confirm the then controversial theory of plate tectonics. On March 27, 1964, at 5:36 p.m., the biggest earthquake ever recorded in North America--and the second biggest ever in the world, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale--struck Alaska, devastating coastal towns and villages and killing more than 130 people in what was then a relatively sparsely populated region. In a riveting tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain, in his first trade book, re-creates the lives of the villagers and townspeople living in Chenega, Anchorage, and Valdez; describes the sheer beauty of the geology of the region, with its towering peaks and 20-mile-long glaciers; and reveals the impact of the quake on the towns, the buildings, and the lives of the inhabitants. George Plafker, a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey with years of experience scouring the Alaskan wilderness, is asked to investigate the Prince William Sound region in the aftermath of the quake, to better understand its origins. His work confirmed the then controversial theory of plate tectonics that explained how and why such deadly quakes occur, and how we can plan for the next one"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Crown, 2017
ISBN: 9781101904077
Branch Call Number: Overdrive eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
DBRL_IdaF Jul 27, 2020

The largest recorded earthquake in North American history struck Alaska on March 27, 1964.
This book contains human stories interspersed with scientific information presented in an understandable way. Did you know barnacles can be useful in studying some earthquakes? At times, especially in the first half, I felt the writing was a little scattered and not as focused as it could have been, but still full of fascinating facts. Once the author got to the descriptions of the quake itself, I was riveted.

Aug 17, 2019

Fascinating book.

Mar 21, 2018

New York Times science reporter Henry Fountain recounts the story of the great quake of 1964 in Alaska, the second most powerful ever recorded in this compelling book. He moves between the human element of the story and the science, and the resulting book informs and enlightens throughout.

Dec 29, 2017

This book is a fascinating record of the people who experienced and studied the “Good Friday” 9.2 earthquake as it travels back in time to life as it was in the new state of Alaska, and the state of geophysics in the years just before the theory of plate tectonics came to be accepted. The shock of the nearly 5-minute quake on the ground, the shock of seeing the damage from the air just days after comes to life here. The work of geologist George Plafker in figuring out how it happened was a big piece of the puzzle that would be put together as plate tectonics theory in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. That story, and the reporting on the various towns and peoples of southern Alaska devastated by the freakish shaking, landslides and uplifts of the quake, is told deftly by New York Times science writer Henry Fountain. A great read.

Dec 12, 2017

This is as much--possibly more--a history of seismology and plate tectonics as it is a story about the Good Friday quake and its effects on the people of Alaska, both during and after the quake itself. It's accessibly-written and for the most part flows well, but it does slow down in spots. I did find parts of it a chore to get through (considering the part of the world, rather like panning for gold).

Oct 07, 2017

I generally enjoyed the book, I wish though it covered more of the science aspect of the quake and not the personal stories of those victimized by it. You can discuss the stories of Valdez (and others) without giving the life history of all the residents. To much details in the personal, not enough detail in the science.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at Arapahoe Libraries

To Top