This image shows the main part of the Chenega village site, Chenega Cove in western Prince William Sound after the earthquake on March 27, 1964. Pilings in the ground mark the former locations of homes that were swept away by the waves. The schoolhouse on high ground was undamaged.

Native History: Earthquake Devastates Native Village of Chenega

Alysa Landry

Other survivors recalled watching their homes collapse into the sea—many times taking family members with them.

The book, compiled 40 years after the quake, reveals that everyone with ties to Chenega was altered that day. Even younger generations who did not experience the disaster continue to feel the trauma.

“The three waves wiped out everything except the school building, which stands even today as a testimony that there was once beautiful life on an island that holds many dark secrets,” writes Donia Abbott, whose mother was 3 when the earthquake hit. Abbott’s mother lost two sisters in the tsunami and Abbott writes about the void where her aunts should have been.

The tsunami “stripped the village of everything: its people, their trust, their feelings and, most importantly, their home.”

Twenty years after the disaster, a group of former villagers returned and established a new town called Chenega Bay, built on Evan’s Island. The new village is built on higher ground, and residents continue to work to rebuild a strong community and revitalize the language and culture.

The 1964 quake, which resulted in as much as $400 million in property loss, was the second-largest in recorded history, next to the 1960 quake in Chile that measured 9.5 on the Richter scale.

In the video below Peter Kompoff talks about how the earthquake affected his family:


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page