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The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet Reprint Edition
Contributor(s): Fountain, Henry
ISBN: 1101904089     ISBN-13: 9781101904084
Publisher: Broadway Books
    OUR PRICE: $14.40  
Product Type: Paperback
Published: August 2018
Annotation: New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

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.

Additional Information
BISAC Categories:
- History | United States | 20th Century
- Social Science | Disasters & Disaster Relief
- Science | Earth Sciences
Dewey: 973
Academic/Grade Level: General Adult
Book type: Non-Fiction
Physical Information: 8.00" H x 5.00" W x 0.50" (0.50 lbs) 277 pages
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): HENRY FOUNTAIN has been a reporter and editor at the New York Times for two decades, writing about science for most of that time. From 1999 to 2009 he wrote "Observatory," a weekly column in the Science Times section.  He was an editor on the national news desk and the Sunday Review and was one of the first editors of Circuits, the Times' pioneering technology section. Prior to coming to the Times, Fountain worked at the International Herald Tribune in Paris, New York Newsday, and the Bridgeport Post in Connecticut. He is a graduate of Yale University, where he majored in architecture. He and his family live just outside of New York City. Learn more at

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2017 June #1)

Fountain, a veteran New York Times reporter and editor, adopts a human-interest perspective as he reports on the lives affected by the infamous Alaskan earthquake of Mar. 27, 1964. He begins by introducing George Plafker and his colleagues from the U.S. Geological Survey who arrived in Alaska after the quake to quickly take stock of the damage. Fountain then turns back the clock for several chapters of backstory, detailing the lives of residents of the small village of Chenega and the little town of Valdez, both soon to be devastated by the quake. A multipart biographical sketch of Plafker sandwiches a brief history of Alfred Wegener's continental-drift hypothesis, followed by still more prequake background on residents of the affected locales. Fountain sidetracks once more to discuss previous seismic activity in Alaska before finally presenting the actual quake. He tallies the lives lost, saved, and changed, only returning to Plafker and his paradigm-changing work supporting Wegener's idea for the final two chapters. Readers interested in the human toll of Alaska's Good Friday Quake will appreciate the story, but those looking for an in-depth scientific discussion will need to look elsewhere. (Aug.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.