Tsunami Images

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Here is a selection of images from the Museum archives. These images provide a glimpse of the effects of recent tsunamis in Hawaii and the Pacific.

Archive Photos: 1946 Tsunami

On April 1, 1946, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generated a tsunami that struck the Hawaiian Islands. The tsunami claimed the lives of 159 people in the Hawaiian Islands (96 in Hilo and 26 elsewhere on the Big Island) and caused $26 million in damages. The bayfront business district in downtown Hilo was utterly devastated by the tsunami waves. Buildings were smashed and pushed into other buildings along Hilo’s main street, Kamehameha Avenue. After each wave crest, the tremendous force of the receding water dragged structures seaward. View the archive.

Boats washed ashore

Archive Photos: 1950s Tsunamis

On November 5, 1952, an 8.2 earthquake occurred off the Southeastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula of the Russian Far East. Tsunami waves were generated and spread across the North Pacific at more than 500 miles per hour. Then just five years later, on March 9, 1957, an earthquake measuring 8.3 occurred in the Aleutian Islands, generating a tsunami. Waves up to 75 feet high were reported on Umimak Island. The tsunami traveled 2,440 miles across the Pacific at a speed of just under 500 miles per hour, reaching the island of Kaua’i at 9 a.m., subsequently moving down the island chain. Damage was minor for Hilo, which was very fortunate. However, repeated warnings and evacuations with resulting minor tsunamis led to feelings of complacency. View the archive.

smashed car

Archive Photos: 1960 Tsunami

The tsunami to strike the state of Hawai’i on May 23, 1960 was generated from an earthquake in Chile with a moment magnitude of 9.5. Much of the destruction occurred in Hilo, Hawai’i, where 61 people were killed, 537 buildings destroyed, and damages totaled over $23 million. The tsunami continued across the Pacific and struck Japan seven hours later, killing 142 people. View the archive.

House off foundation

Archive Photos: 1975 Tsunami

On November 29, 1975 a 7.2 earthquake occurred locally in the area of Kalapana, Hawai’i. The earthquake generated a tsunami with a maximum height of over 47 feet. The earthquake and tsunami took the lives of two campers and caused property damage estimated at $4.1 million. View the archive.

receding water

Archive Photos: 2010 Tsunami

On February 26, 2010, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake severely shook Chile from Santiago to Concepción. Within 12 minutes, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) on O’ahu in Hawai’i issued a tsunami warning to Chile and Peru and subsequently included Hawai’i in the warning. It was fortunate that the tsunami turned out to be non-destructive for Hawai’i.View the archive.

Street in Kona

Archive Photos: 2011 Tsunami

The earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011 generated a devastating local tsunami that struck the Pacific coast of Honshu.The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the U.S. West Coast, including Hawai’i. Tsunami alerts sounded in more than 50 countries and territories. Fortunately the tsunami was non-destructive for Hilo, Hawai’i. In Kailua-Kona, however, businesses, hotels, homes, and infrastructure were damaged, in some cases heavily. View the archive.

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