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So severe was the tremor when it hit about 10:17. p.m. (PST) that it knocked the needle off the seismograph at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was recorded at the University of California with an intensity of eight on the Richter scale which figured the 1906 San Francisco earthquake at 8.25.
All cities in southeastern Alaska felt the rolling quake, as did Whitehorse, Y.T., in the interior above British Columbia. Aftershocks continued for
Minor damage was reported throughout the area, but it apparently was most severe along the 100-mile stretch of the Gulf of Alaska coastline between Lituya Bay and the fishing village of Yakutat.
The Coast Guard reported at mid-day today the entrance to Lituya Bay was so choked with debris the cutter Sorrell and a 95-foot rescue boat from Juneau were unable to enter.
Oil Slick Seen
An oil slick was sighted in early afternoon inside the bay near where the Wagner's troller last was seen.
Fishing boats along the coast clustered together during the day, apparently waiting to be sure the tremors were over. Those in inland waters resumed trolling.
A major fault runs through mountain ridges below the sea in the Lituya Bay area and is believed responsible for the big quake.
Some damage to oil lines, water tanks and docks was done in Yakutat, but apparently the loss was minor elsewhere.
The Swansons were flown here from the coast by a Juneau bush pilot, Dean Goodwin, who reported nearly all bays and harbors in the area were dotted with ice from quake-shattered glaciers.
Fishing boats in Cross Sound and the Icy Strait area were operating normally today but those in outside waters were clustered together apparently waiting to see if the tremors had subsided entirely.
Whether any other boats were damaged or missing was not known immediately because of poor communications with outlying coastal points.
Dr. Don Tocher, seismologist at the University of California at Berkeley, said the quake was a major one and had its center in the Gulf of Alaska. Dr. Charles Richeter of the California Institute of Technology seismological laboratory at Pasadena said that had the quake occurred in a populated area it would have caused a disaster.
The first severe jolt was recorded at Sitka, 100 miles southwest of here, at 10:17.18 p.m. Two sharp aftershocks followed minutes later.
A tidal wave alert was issued late last night throughout the Hawaiian Islands, apparently the result of the Alaska quake, but was cancelled early today by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The alert generated high excitement and caused some traffic jams as residents of beachfront areas fled to higher ground.
Tibbles worked part time as the power plant operator for the cannery owned by Mrs. Walton.
A Fish and Wildlife Service Management agent at Yakutat and FWS pilot there reported the whole coast line from Dangerous, River, southeast of Yakutat, almost as far as Cape Fairweather, was dotted by waterspouts that were erupting four or five feet in the air from holes opened by the quake. The FWS has evacuated four stream guards in the area and flown them into Yakutat.
The deputy commander of the Alaska Communication System at Elmendorf Air Force Base said multiple breaks in the submarine cable between Skagway and Juneau disrupted the major portion of the long distance telephone circuits between Alaska and Seattle. Telegraph service was not seriously impaired.
A cable repair ship is being prepared for dispatch from Seattle as soon as possible to repair the damaged cable. In the meantime the public is requested to limit their calls outside of Alaska and to southeastern Alaska to emergency calls until full service is restored.
Another couple on Khantaak Island at the time of the quake were Landon and Anne Gilbert, who live on the opposite end of the island. They were unhurt. He is a retired Coast Guardsman who was once stationed at Yakutat. The island is about one mile
offshore in Yakutat Bay, about five miles long and very narrow.
Brady Glacier, off Cross Sound near outside waters, showed much new ice this morning when Goodwin flew by. Goodwin was accompanied in his rescue flight by. Dr.
Joseph Rude of Juneau.
A Coast Guard amphibian Albatross from Annette Island was enroute today to Lituya Bay to try to locate wreckage of the Sunmore. It was the troller Luman, which had been outside the bay, that picked up the Swansons and took them to Dixon Harbor for the plane pickup.
Area Of Upsets
L. J. Mitchell, superintendent of Glacier Bay National Monument of which Lituya Bay is a part, says records show a 400 foot tidal wave in the bay was verified in
1936, and a 395 foot one recorded in 1853 or 1854.
He said a major fault runs NW-SE through mountain ridges and passes through the upper portion of the bay. The bay is a favorite anchor point for fishing boats in the area.
On Sept. 10, 1899 an earthquake raised the foothills of the St Elias Range, which borders Yakutat Bay, a measured 47.3 feet, while on Disenchantment Bay, an arm of Yakutat Bay, the same quake depressed some areas so low that the sea ran into the forests.