Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 22

Seward, Alaska

Friday, July 6, 1973

More earthquake.  On this day we drove to Seward, on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula.  I very carefully noted that the name is pronounced “soo-ard.”  I don’t remember if this was another spelling/pronunciation disconnect that I disapproved of, but of course the town is named after Lincoln’s then Johnson’s Secretary of State who arranged for the purchase from Russia of the land that later became Alaska back in the 1860s for $7.2 million dollars, or roughly two cents an acre.  He was greatly ridiculed for it at the time, and two of Alaska’s nicknames for years afterward were “Seward’s icebox” or “Seward’s folly.”  I wonder what they’d have called it had they known how valuable all the oil found up there has been.

Seward, Alaska

I have a mental picture of the town of Seward as being a dry, dusty place, although that photo certainly doesn’t look like it.  It may have more to do with the fact that the only campground we could find was behind a Tesoro gas station than anything else.

Seward was another place hit extremely hard by what my diary calls “the great Alaska earthquake.”  One thing we did there that afternoon was attend a slide show presentation at the town library of pictures of the terrible things that happened to Seward during the quake.  Given Seward’s sea level location, it’s not surprising that a lot of damage was done by the tsunami that followed the quake as well as the quake itself.

Just some of the damage from the earthquake.

The whole thing was fascinating, if terrifying.  I’ve been through a few earthquakes myself — it’s hard to live on the west coast of North America for any length of time without feeling the earth tremble occasionally — but the biggest quake I’ve been through was a six-point-something, and the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen personally from a quake was the glass roof of an old-fashioned greenhouse where I’d been working falling in behind me as I ran outside.

After that I suspect the visit we made to the oldest Protestant church on the Kenai Peninsula wasn’t all that impressive.  And, of course, we did our usual groceries and laundry.

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