Exhibits

Model of Hilo: Pre-1946

Model of Hilo

The model of Hilo shows what the town looked like before the 1946 tsunami. You can see how Hilo town was built up right to the water's edge, a fact that exacerbated the damage and loss of life during past tsunami events. Tsunamis have truly shaped the appearance and development of Hilo.

The Story of Hilo

The Story of Hilo

"The Story of Hilo" is a collection of photos and stories documenting Hilo town disasters. Within the gallery you will see descriptions of the:

  • Tsunami of 183
  • Disasters of 1868
  • Pele's fire 1880-1881
  • Construction of Hilo railroad 1899-1913
  • Tsunamis of 1922 and 1923
  • The "Hilo Massacre" of 1938
  • April Fools' Day tsunami of 1946

1946 Tsunami

1946 Tsunami

An earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generated a tsunami that struck the Hawaiian Islands at approximately 7 a.m., about the time that people were having breakfast or getting ready for work and school. There was no warning system in 1946, so people were taken by surprise. It is said that before the third wave in the series came into Hilo Harbor, the water receded all the way out to Hilo's breakwater. The fatalities on all of the Hawaiian Islands totalled 159 people. Read more about the stories from this defining moment in Hilo's history.

Laupahoehoe Quilt

Laupahoehoe Quilt

To commemorate the lives lost at Laupahoehoe during the 1946 tsunami, a teacher and her students designed and made a quilt for the Museum. The quilt is dedicated to the 24 students/faculty/family members lost in the tsunami.

1946 Laupahoehoe Mural

Laupahoehoe Mural

A group of artists painted this beautiful mural of the pre-1946 peninsula at Laupahoehoe. There were many stories of fate that day.

Laupahoehoe Amazing Rescues

Laupahoehoe Amazing Rescues

Read about three fascinating rescues:

  • A teacher was rescued at sea by her future husband.
  • A boy was rescued by a ship that made a second pass to pick him up out of the ocean. Read about the incredible reunion of the boy and his rescuer years later.
  • Three boys were rescued by people on shore just before their raft would have passed the horn of the Big Island at Kohala. Had that happened, they probably would never have been rescued.

Tsunamis in the 1950s

1950s Tsunamis

The exhibit "Tsunamis in the 1950s" depicts the vulnerability of the Hawaiian Islands, with damage sustained on all of the islands.

In 1952 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, with wave heights reaching 12 feet at Kamchatka.

In 1957 an 8.6 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of the Aleutian Islands, with wave heights reaching 75 feet on Unimak Island, Alaska.

Read about the impacts of these tsunamis on the Hawaiian Islands.

1960 Tsunami

1960 Tsunami

The exhibit "Waiakea Town and the 1960 Tsunami" demonstrates how complacency can lead to tragedy. Watch tsunami video stories and look at "before " and "after " photos of Hilo.

The Nazca plate movement off the coast of Chile generated a 9.5 magnitude earthquake on May 22, 1960. This earthquake was the largest ever recorded on Earth. The ensuing tsunami waves struck Hawai'i in 15 hours, and continued on to strike Japan in 22 hours.

Maximum runup in Hilo was approximately 35 feet.

1960 Bent Parking Meter

1960 Bent Parking Meter

Look at the bent parking meter from the 1960 tsunami in Hilo. It makes you realize the force of moving water!

1964 Alaska Tsunamis

1964 Alaska Tsunamis

Read about the science of this geological event. For example, the earthquake moved the land horizonally by 30 feet on average. Areas of Anchorage subsided by 11 feet.

Read and listen to survivor accounts from the areas of Valdez, Seward, and Kodiak Island.

Locally Generated Tsunamis

Locally generated tsunamis

Locally generated tsunamis are tsunamis that originate from geological processes that are close to home (for us that means right here in Hawai'i). They can occur at anytime. There is very little warning time in such an instance, since the displaced water reaches shorelines very quickly.

In 1975, an earthquake under Kilauea's south flank on the Big Island generated a tsunami with wave heights of 47 feet. Find out what happened to a troop of boy scouts at Halape.

In 1958, tsunami waves reached 1700 feet in Lituya Bay, Alaska.

2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

2004 Indian Ocean tsunami

It is estimated that between 230,000 to 300,000 people died in this event, with the fatalities being higher among the young and the elderly.

Read and listen to incredible and touching stories given by survivors.

Find out what happened from the time of the earthquake through recovery after the tsunami.

2011 Japan Exhibit

2011 Japan tsunami

The 9.0 earthquake shifted the main island of Japan by 8 feet and even had an effect on the earth's axis.

The maximum tsunami runup was 124 feet at Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.

Tsunami alarms sounded in more than 50 countries and territories.

The exhibit includes science and stories from this tragedy. The video kiosk shows how the tsunami engulfed everything in its path. One of the videos shows the first wave coming in, being over 5 minutes in duration (for just the first wave!), clearly making you realize that tsunamis are really rivers or walls of water, a flooding of water with incredible power.

Energy of Moving Water

Energy of Moving Water

Listen and watch as a narrator gives fascinating information regarding the energy of moving water. See the effects of moving water as the tank creates waves. Then create your own wave!

Science of Tsunamis

Science of Tsunamis

Did you know that tsunami waves can travel up to 600 mph? The 'Science of Tsunamis Exhibit' explains it all.

Test your own evacuation skills at the controls of the 'Warning Center Exhibit'.

Tsunamis consist of multiple waves, more aptly described as walls or rivers of water. The time between these waves is about 15-30 minutes.

Tsunami wavelengths (from one crest to the next crest) can be 100 miles, which is the distance from Hilo to Kona!

Learn about the science of tsunami waves, and how these waves differ from our everyday wind-driven ocean waves.

Donna Saiki Vault Theater

Donna Saiki Vault Theater

As part of your museum visit, there is a 23 minute video that contains original footage from the 1946 tsunami. The video is played in our vault theater, named because it was an actual bank vault!

Tsunami Store

Tsunami Store

Peruse the store in the museum. There is a selection of books and DVDs pertaining to tsunamis. The store also features children's toys, T-shirts, posters, wind chimes, postcards, pencils, paper weights, coffee cups, jewelry and more. See Store for more information.

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Last Revised September 2013