Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Great Quake

The Great Quake by Henry Fountain
Crown/Archetype: 8/8/17
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781101904060

The Great Quake by Henry Fountain is a highly recommended account of the Alaskan earthquake of 1964, especially for those who enjoy  historical background and personal information about those affected by the quake and tsunamis.

"At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake - the second most powerful in world history - struck the young state of Alaska. The violent shaking, followed by massive tsunamis, devastated the southern half of the state and killed more than 130 people.  A day later, George Plafker, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, arrived to investigate.  His fascinating scientific detective work in the months that followed helped confirm the then-controversial theory of plate tectonics."

Fountain approaches the story of the Alaskan earthquake from a human-interest angle, discussing the people, their way of life, and the history of Alaska more than the actual quake itself and the exciting scientific enlightenment that resulted from studying the quake. He offers details about some of the citizens of the small village of Chenega and the little town of Valdez, both of which were devastated, changed, and altered by the quake and resulting tsunamis. While there is scientific information about the quake and tsunamis, Plafker observations that resulted in changing the way we look at geology and the theory of plate tectonics is condensed into just a couple chapters. Those who appreciate the science might desire more, but most readers will concede that Fountain chose an interesting and basically successful way to approach the topic,

It is a well written account of a historic natural disaster that is both factual and accessible. Fountain succeeds in showing what happened, who it happened to, why we should care about what happened, and the results of the scientific fieldwork and analysis. The book opens with a map of the area and the final version will have notes and suggestions for further reading, additional sources, and an index. (I would hope that the final version includes photos, but I have no information about this. There are photos available online that are worth looking up after you have read this book.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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