Monday, June 6, 2016

Earthquake, Oil Spill, the Real Valdez Alaska

Picture of the 1964 earthquake of downtown Valdez AlaskaThe 1964 Great Alaskan earthquake (on Good Friday, March 27th, occurred at 5:36 P.M. Alaska Standard Time. The earthquake lasted four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, at a magnitude of 9.2 megathrust, it was the  most powerful earthquake recorded in North American history, and the second most powerful recorded in world history.  Across south-central Alaska, ground fissures, collapsing structures, and tsunamis resulting from the earthquake caused about 139 deaths.  In Valdez, a massive underwater landslide, resulting in the deaths of 30 people between the collapse of the Valdez city harbor and docks, and inside the ship that was docked there at the time.  The earthquake triggered a huge submarine slide that caused millions of cubic yards of earth to slide into the Valdez Bay.  The ground under Valdez was determined to be unstable and it was decided to move the location of Valdez to a new town site four miles away where cobblestone goes down 100 feet.  Around 50 homes were moved to the new location, and the old location is all but abandoned. (There is a museum dedicated to the earthquake and Old Valdez)

Exxon Valdez two days after oil spill
The Exxon Valdez was the largest oil spill in American History back in 1989 when it hit Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound.  A conservative estimate is that 11 million gallons of oil spilled, although more liberal estimates are as high as 38 million.  Although the Exxon Valdez had filled its tanks at the Valdez Marine Terminal across the bay from the city, the actual wreck was far enough away that oil did not hit the shores of Valdez…however, it did affect the fishing industry, tourist industry, and marine life and birds throughout the entire region.   So other than the ship having the name “Valdez”, there is no connection to the town.  By-the-way, the ship changed names and owner numerous times, and was finally sold for scrap.  Exxon paid out nearly $1 billion in damages, and spent around $2 billion to clean up the mess, although much of that was recovered through insurance policies.  There were so many things wrong which should have been right, which would have prevented this disaster. 

Valdez Marine Terminal

Above is a view of the end of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which starts up in Prudhoe Bay, about 800 miles to the north.  Today when I took the picture, I did not see a oil tanker over there, but there was a cargo ship…not sure if they have duel use ships that carry oil and cargo at the same time.

Valdez Ferry Terminal

Valdez today is a very important port for Alaska, and not just because of the oil port across the bay.  It is an important stop of the Alaska Ferry System.  It is an important cargo port because it is the most northern port in America which does not freeze/ice up.   (Anchorage is just a little further north, but it does get ice during the winter, and in a hard winter, it could shut down the port for awhile.)  Valdez did have cruise ships, but that service stopped a few years ago due to lack of interest by the tourist.  (I have to admit, from a tourist stand point, this is nothing like Skagway.)

Valdez Docks

The fishing and tour boat business is really big here.  There is a summer long fishing derby for Halibut and Coho salmon, the latter they refer to as “Silvers”. When the fish are being cleaned, the guts are placed out on a shoot, and the birds (gulls and eagles) get their fill.

Eagles Rest RV Park, Valdez Alaska

Then there is the RV tourist that come through Valdez.  The season has just begun, and there are four or five parks right in the downtown area of Valdez, and two or three on the outskirts, and a few others which are boondocking parks.  Eagles Rest, where we are, has five or six caravans come through each year, which will have 20-25 RVs in each caravan.  The picture above was taken around 4 pm, and by 10 pm it is still light, and five or six more RVs have come into this part of the park.  In the morning, many will leave…some will stay for a day or two.

Today was laundry day, it was a damp, wet day, and not a great picture taking day, or wildlife day.  I did get pictures of more eagles, a rabbit and a duck…all of which I will spare you from viewing.  Tomorrow should be a brighter, warmer day…our last day here in Valdez.


  1. Replies
    1. Makes you wonder that if the old downtown had not been destroyed, that Valdez would look like a quaint little town like Skagway and be more interesting to the cruise lines...

  2. Dave, I sure am enjoying your travels to Alaska. We hope to drive there before too long.

    How did you get the corners rounded and the spaces between the page tabs?

    1. It has to do with what Template you pick and the Layout you pick in Blogger. I tried various ones before I decided on the look that we have.

  3. Always good to be reminded of the Good Friday event, my short memory needs refreshing often. Been told Anchorage can never have a Tsunami as it is a shallow water port way inland. Thanks to a on going US Corps Engineers project, big ships can pass through a narrow channel that has to be re dredged every year. Kinda an amazing waste of money, since we have a deep water port in Whittier and Seward and both connect by rail and road to Anchorage and Fairbanks. That is politics, IMO. I see you are going to have sunny weather for your drive tomorrow. Wondering if the motel with good food is still there, it had RV spots nearby. I used to really enjoy their Baked Alaskan, never had it so good anywhere else. Been years ago, but was single story and painted red. Can't recall the name. We need to visit there someday, we both went there for work and had no reason to go back since. Safe travels.

    1. Thanks for the tip on the place to eat, but I have a feeling that Marcia is not going to want to get out of the motorhome after her fall (See Tuesday's blog) until her arm feels better.


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