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Kaktovik's 11 quakes don't shake residents
Anchorage Daily News


April 14, 2007

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- An unusual series of earthquakes near an Arctic Ocean village this week have generated a buzz of excitement there.

But almost no one felt them, said Kaktovik residents.

Some learned about them on the radio, from a Barrow station 300 miles to the west, they said. Others saw the news on the Web.

The Inupiat village of 288 north of the Brooks Range is no stranger to earthquakes, but the stretch of 11 that began Saturday were close to the village.

The biggest was a 4.45 temblor Tuesday morning centered 37 miles southwest of town. No one felt it.

"Everything is too frozen solid to shake," said a chuckling Mayor Lon Sonsalla.

News of the quakes prompted calls from worried people in Barrow, and they even made the TV news out of Anchorage on Tuesday night, said Sonsalla.

People in the village, however, were amused, said policeman Rich Holschen. They especially got a kick out of a bulletin from the Tsunami Warning Center. It said no tsunami was coming.

That's good, because there's no high ground in Kaktovik, which lies on an island in the Beaufort Sea. A tsunami also is unlikely because the sea is frozen to the coast and won't break up until July, he said.

Holschen said he didn't feel the big one Tuesday. He was running on a treadmill.

But he did feel a smaller one Saturday evening that rattled the floor and desk where he works. It felt like a large truck driving by. It's the only one he's felt in four years there.

He's been tracking the earthquakes on the Alaska Earthquake Information Center's Web site. Others are too, he said.

The Northeast Alaska earthquake zone is created by stress stemming from tectonic plates colliding beneath the Aleutian Islands and Denali National Park, scientists said.

The stress spawned a cluster of more than 12 quakes last spring, including a 5.0 temblor a year ago March that was centered 63 miles southwest of the village.

George Kaleak, public works supervisor, didn't feel Tuesday's shake. He was probably operating heavy equipment, he said.

Still, he called the recent earthquakes "freaky" because they're close. He's afraid a future quake could spark a tsunami once the sea ice melts.

The village high point is only 30 feet above sea level, he said. "That'd be pretty devastating if there was a tsunami," he said.


Contact Alex deMarban at ademarban(at)
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Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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