The Great Quake by Henry Fountain

The Great Quake

Henry Fountain

The Great Quake interweaves a strong narrative about the catastrophic earthquake that devastated Alaska with the science of seismology and plate tectonics.

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In the bestselling tradition of Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm, The Great Quake is a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history -- the 1964 Alaska earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega -- and the geologist who hunted for clues to explain how and why it took place.

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.

In a compelling tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain combines history and science to bring the quake and its aftermath to life in vivid detail.  With deep, on-the-ground reporting from Alaska, often in the company of George Plafker, Fountain shows how the earthquake left its mark on the land and its people -- and on science.

Advance Galley Reviews

On March 27, 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake hit southern Alaska. It lasted for 5 minutes and drastically changed the landscape. The Good Friday quake took over a hundred lives and caused millions of dollars in damages. The description of the quake while it happened is more exciting and riveting than anything Hollywood could produce as it was taken from the recollections of the people who lived through it. But, the Good Friday quake did more than damage, it changed the way earthquakes and furthered the theory of plate tectonics. This was mainly due to the work of George Plafker. George Plafker was a field geologist who was sent by the National Geological Survey to record the geological changes that had happened as a result of the quake. While others were sitting in offices looking at data theorizing the cause of the quake, George looked his own observations plus the data and developed the most conclusive theory on the source and cause of the quake. Overall, I enjoyed the book although there were some background sections that could have been cut. This was an advance copy, and I hope the final copy has pictures of areas the text describes.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I was attracted to it because as a child I remember seeing pictures of the devastation of the quake and hearing my parents discuss it. It was really refreshing to read a book about science that included the people affected by it. I was intrigued by the extent of the quake and the forces of nature that caused it. I wasn't aware how much in it's infancy the study of earthquakes was at that time. It was nice to read a science book that assumes the reader has little to no knowledge about the subject too. Well written and informative expose', and I would recommend it if you want a well-rounded short education about not only this earthquake, but earthquakes in general.

This book is devoted to a massive earthquake that hit Alaska in 1964. The early chapters jump around from the education of a geologist to the life of a schoolteacher in an Alaskan village to earlier scientific debates about the possible movement of continents. Once the earthquake occurs he does an excellent job of describing the effects of the quake on the people and landscape of Alaska. The discussion of plate tectonics and how the quake contributed to our knowledge about it is particularly fascinating. Definitely worth reading

I was intrigued by the blurb of this book-- I enjoy history and science, so this sounded like a great read. Going in I knew absolutely nothing about the 1964 Alaska quake, or its importance to science. The writing was vivid and gripping. Fountain gives you a brief taste of the aftermath of the quake, and then introduces you to the region, its people, and some of the science behind plate tectonics. Throughout the narrative, you feel as if you are there, experiencing the build-up and the quake along with the Valdez residents and Chenega villagers. I had trouble putting this one down, because I wanted to know what would happen next-- Did everyone make it out okay? How were people rebuilding? What's the area like now? Fountain goes into detail on a number of applicable scientific theories, and it is written in a way that is not too convoluted for a lay person, but does not feel overly "dumbed down." I had no idea that Alaska was such a hotbed for earthquakes. I learned so much reading this book, but I did not feel as if the information was forced or there was too much to take in; there was a good balance providing information (whether on geology, the people, earthquakes, plate tectonics, etc.) and of giving first-hand accounts of what it was like before, during, and after the 1964 Good Friday quake. Definitely recommend-- it's a great look at the importance and impact of field work in the scientific field.

I found this book interesting. I could not put it down.

This was an interesting book about the 1964 Alaska quake and the theory it reinforced on plate tectonics. Includes varied background information on Alaska's history, geology, residents of the affected areas of the quake and George Plafker's life. A lot of information is packed into the book, could sharpen up some the excess. The details of the quake and the individual people whose lives were highlighted during the quake, a one room school teacher, for instance, and Chenega village were well written and held my attention. The science not being written over your head was appreciated. A great read for summer and an eye opener.

Every time I tried to download this book it caused Blue Fire to crash. I had to reinstall it two times. I think there might be something wrong with the coding.


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