Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Earthquake ...

Another anniversary: fifty years ago last night, at 11:37 P.M., a massive earthquake took place in the upper Madison River Canyon in far southwestern Montana. The quake killed at least 28 people, and caused one of the largest landslides in the region's recorded history. Many of the victims were campers who were buried forever by the slide, which dammed the Madison River and created Quake Lake.

Dozens of other campers were trapped in the canyon for a terrifying night, the town of Ennis was evacuated, and the lives of thousands of others were disrupted. A number of buildings were destroyed, and Highway 287 was rendered impassible by the damage.

Of the many photographs of the quake and its aftermath, I think this remains one of the most evocative. Taken for the U.S. Geological Survey not long after the quake, it shows the shredded remains of Highway 287 through the canyon.


  1. Doesn't that shot almost looked photoshopped? Like...man's efforts to make the land accessible were merely temporary...

    I've only seen the area once, long after the facts, when it was hard to even imagine what a terrible tragedy had taken place. Mother Nature is an vengeful task master.

  2. It really does, doesn't it?? I can assure you, though, that it's the real thing. :)

    And you're absolutely right in the way that the photo shows how insignificant many of the efforts of man are ... a small hiccup by mother nature can undo some of the hardest work of humankind.

    I've been to the quake area a few times over the years -- first as a kid vacationing with my parents. It's interesting seeing how quickly the visible effects of the earthquake have disappeared; other than the big landslide, of course, there's not really all that much to see anymore. In at least this case, the earth healed its wounds quickly.