Ketchikan. We proceeded to check the deck and the engine room and found no signs of damage, so I gradually resumed speed. I called the Exxon North Slope, gave our position, and offered to assist if needed. They responded that they were restoring power and did not need any help at this time. The Exxon Boston reported that the flooding was under control and the Exxon New Orleans was now standing by. While this was happening we felt the first of several aftershocks, leaving no doubt that it was an earthquake we’d felt. We resumed course to Valdez, where eventually all vessels arrived without further incident.
“I plotted the position of the earthquake and the positions of the three Exxon tankers and found that they were about 35 nautical miles southwest of our position. That put them about halfway between us and the earthquake epicenter. I would never have believed that we could feel such a sharp, jarring motion transmitted through that great depth and distance of water.”
I asked Christiansen if he had noticed any change in the sea state following the earthquake. “No,” he said. “If there was a wave, it was too small for us to notice. But that hasn’t always been the case. In the five years I was master on the Sansinena II, we ran into big waves several times. These were 75 feet high and covered the entire 800-plus-foot-long deck with green water. Waves hit the bridge as well. At such times about all you can do is heave to. You can’t help but have a number of concerns, foremost being not to lose power. I don’t know if those are what you would call extreme waves, but for me they were pretty extreme.”
Coincidentally, as I thanked Captain Christiansen for talking with me, he mentioned that he was on his way to pilot the Lane Victory back into Los Angeles Harbor. I told him to be sure to say hello to Ernie Barker (see Chapter 8), since steam ships and big waves are something that he and Ernie have in common.
The list could go on and on, but I will mention just a few others to indicate the geographical distribution of tsunami occurring in a short time period. On September 1, 1992, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of Nicaragua, causing a wave with a run-up of 33 feet. Three months later, on December 12, 1992, very nearly on the opposite side of the globe, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck near