1964 Great Alaska Earthquake Archive

In Honor of Dr. George Plafker

1964 3/28 03:36 UTC  61.01N  147.62W  6km deep  Mw=9.2, Prince William Sound, Alaska

The death toll of this earthquake was about 125.  It is the second largest earthquake of the world in the 20th century.  The Great Alaska earthquake of 1964 has been extensively studied by many scientists and engineers, and in particular, by George Plafker who deduced that the source of this earthquake was a low-angle thrust from meticulous postquake field observations. This earthquake archive is created to honor Dr. George Plafker for his many pioneering contributions in earthquake geology.

We welcome contributions of digital files of materials relating to the 1964 Great Alaska earthquake and financial donations to the endowment fund so that more seismograms can be scanned and made available online.  In addition, an archivist is needed to edit and maintain this Archive. If you are interested, 
please contact W.H.K. Lee at lee@usgs.gov (office) or  whklee@ix.netcom.com (home).

Archivist: A volunteer is needed.
Endowment Donors: Doris Coonrad (Founder) for providing fund to scan seismograms.
Contributors of Files: Charles R. Hutt, and William H. K. Lee.

1. Seismograms of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake:
Please click the above link to view the selected seismograms of the 1964 Great Alaska earthquake recorded by the WWSSN stations.

link to compressed tif file directory (.gz format)

2. Selected Information about the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake now Online:

3. References:

Kanamori, H. (1970). The Alaska earthquake of 1964: Radiation of long-period surface waves and source mechanism. J. Geophys. Res., vol. 75, 5029-5040.

National Academy of Sciences (1972). The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. 8 volumes. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

Page, R. (1968). Aftershocks and microaftershocks of the great Alaska earthquake of 1964. Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., vol. 58, p. 1131-1168.

Plafker, G. (1965): Tectonic deformation associated with the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Science,  vol. 148, p. 1675-1687.

Savage, J. C., and L. M. Hastie (1966). Surface deformation associated with dip-slip faulting. J. Geophys. Res., vol. 71, p. 4897-4904.

United Sates Geological Survey (1966). The Alaska Earthquake March 27, 1964. A series of  Geological Survey Professional Papers, No. 541, 542, 543, and 544.        

U.S. Department of Commerce (1966). The Prince William Sound Earthquake of 1964 and Aftershocks. 3 volumes. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

4. A Brief Note about George Plafker
     George Plafker is a field geologist noted for his field studies of subduction-zone and backarc thrust earthquakes. Through very complete mapping of vertical deformation and faulting and the application of tectonics, he was first to propose in 1965 that the source of the 1964 Great Alaska
earthquake was a low-angle thrust fault.
     This conclusion differed from interpretations of the fault plane by several seismologists as (1) a nearly vertical fault extending to a depth of 100-200 km, (2) a steeply dipping normal fault,
or (3) a predominantly strike-slip fault. George’s conclusion was corroborated through dislocation modeling published by Savage and Hastie in 1966, and later through a careful study of radiation of the long-period surface waves published by Hiroo Kanamori in 1970.  Subsequently, George and his followers applied this approach to many subduction earthquakes around the world and contributed greatly to our understanding of these earthquakes.
     George Plafker was educated at the Brooklyn College *(B.S., Geology,* 1949), University of California, Berkeley (M.S., Geology, 1956), and Stanford University (Ph.D., Geology and Geophysics, 1972).
He served as an Engineering Geologist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (1949-1950); Geologist & Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey (1951-1956, 1962-1995);  Petroleum Geologist, Chevron (1956-1961); and Consulting Engineering Geologist, (1995-present).
    Please click: Plafker_Photo for a recent photo of George.
Please click: Biographical Sketch for: George Plafker for a 1-page bio-summary written by George himself for the International Handbook of Earthquake and Engineering Seismology, edited by W.H.K. Lee, H. Kanamori, P.C. Jennings, and C. Kisslinger, Part B, p. 1886, Academic Press, San Diego, 2003.

(Last Updated: November 6,  2004)