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Panoramic view from Port Chatham ridge-top (click image for full-size)

Alaska 2017
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: May - August, 4181 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Hiking and kayaking, meeting the occasional bear.

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Lituya Bay

Always a worthwhile visit, Lituya Bay is beautiful but has a fearsome reputation, because of a history of enormous tidal waves that sometimes accompany local earthquakes, and because of a tricky entrance that can be dangerous at times. In recent years I've made a habit of anchoring in Lituya Bay on both my outbound and return voyages, because it breaks up an otherwise very long passage between Cape Spencer and Yakutat.

Here's what Lituya Bay looks like on a perfect Spring day (click the image for a full-size view):

Lituya bay panorama (click image for full size). Note Cenotaph Island at the center of the image.


Lituya Bay is best known as the site of a gigantic tsunami (now called a "megatsunami") that took place on July 9th 1958. On that date an earthquake dislodged a hillside, which fell into the bay and produced an enormous wall of water that climbed 1720 feet up an adjacent hill, then moved out through the bay, destroying anchored boats as it passed. Here is a computer animation of the event.


Currents can become dangerous at the entrance to Lituya Bay, and during ebb tide and SW wind, waves can break across the entrance, which makes transit impossible. About Lituya Bay the Coast Pilot says, "Lituya Bay, 39 miles NW of Cape Spencer, affords protected anchorage in all weather, but the entrance is dangerous and should never be attempted except at slack water because of the strong current."

I think the above warning was written before modern satellite navigation and powered vessels became available. Over a period of years I've learned the conditions at the entrance and I now have little hesitation about entering or leaving on a slack or flood tide in relatively calm weather (but never on an ebb tide). I personally judge this to be safe only because:

Notwithstanding my years of experience in Lituya Bay, I never enter or leave in ebb tide conditions, because of the risk that waves might break across the entrance. French explorer La Perouse lost 21 sailors in this bay's rough entrance.

And finally, none of the above should be taken as anything more than a personal field report, not navigational advice.


Be sure to see my photosphere images of Lituya Bay, in particular this one that shows a hillside shorn of trees to a height of 1720 feet, by the 1958 megatsunami.

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