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Reconnaissance engineering geology of the Metlakatla area, Annette Island, Alaska, with emphasis on evaluation of earthquakes and other geologic hazards

January 1, 1977

A program to study the engineering geology of most larger Alaska coastal communities and to evaluate their earthquake and other geologic hazards was started following the 1964 Alaska earthquake; this report about the Metlakatla area, Annette Island, is a product of that program. Field-study methods were of a reconnaissance nature, and thus the interpretations in the report are tentative.

Landscape of the Metlakatla Peninsula, on which the city of Metlakatla is located, is characterized by a muskeg-covered terrane of very low relief. In contrast, most of the rest of Annette Island is composed of mountainous terrane with steep valleys and numerous lakes. During the Pleistocene Epoch the Metlakatla area was presumably covered by ice several times; glaciers smoothed the present Metlakatla Peninsula and deeply eroded valleys on the rest. of Annette Island. The last major deglaciation was completed probably before 10,000 years ago. Rebound of the earth's crust, believed to be related to glacial melting, has caused land emergence at Metlakatla of at least 50 ft (15 m) and probably more than 200 ft (61 m) relative to present sea level.

Bedrock in the Metlakatla area is composed chiefly of hard metamorphic rocks: greenschist and greenstone with minor hornfels and schist. Strike and dip of beds are generally variable and minor offsets are common. Bedrock is of late Paleozoic to early Mesozoic age. Six types of surficial geologic materials of Quaternary age were recognized: firm diamicton, emerged shore, modern shore and delta, and alluvial deposits, very soft muskeg and other organic deposits, and firm to soft artificial fill. A combination map unit is composed of bedrock or diamicton. Geologic structure in southeastern Alaska is complex because, since at least early Paleozoic time, there have been several cycles of tectonic deformation that affected different parts of the region. Southeastern Alaska is transected by numerous faults and possible faults that attest to major movements of the earth's crust. The latest of the major tectonic events in the Metlakatla region occurred in middle Tertiary time; some minor fault activity probably continues today at depth. Along the outer coast of southeastern Alaska and British Columbia, major faulting activity occurs in the form of active, strike-slip movement along the Queen Charlotte fault about 100 mi (160 kin) west-southwest of Metlakatla. Some branching subsidiary faults also may be active, at least one of which may be the Sandspit fault.

Many major and smaller earthquakes occur along the outer coast. These shocks are related to movements along the Queen Charlotte fault. A few small earthquakes occur in the region between the outer coast and the Coast Mountains, which includes Metlakatla. 0nly a few earthquakes have been reported as felt at Metlakatla; these shocks and others felt in the region are tabulated. Historically, the closest major earthquake was the magnitude 8.1 Queen Charlotte Islands earthquake of August 22, 1949, which occurred along the Queen Charlotte fault 125 mi (200 km) southwest of Metlakatla. No damage was reported at Metlakatla. The probability of destructive earthquakes affecting Metlakatla is unknown. A consideration of the tectonics and earthquake history of the region, however, suggests that sometime in the future an earthquake with a magnitude of about 8 will occur along that segment of the Queen Charlotte fault nearest to Metlakatla. Smaller earthquakes with magnitudes of 6 or more might occur elsewhere in the Metlakatla region or south-southeastward near Dixon Entrance or Hecate Strait.

Several geologic effects that have characterized large earthquakes elsewh6re may be expected to accompany some of the possible major earthquakes that might affect the Metlakatla area in the future. Evaluation of effects indicates that fault displacement and tectonic uplift or subsidence are probably unlikely, and ground shaking in general probably would be strongest

Publication Year 1977
Title Reconnaissance engineering geology of the Metlakatla area, Annette Island, Alaska, with emphasis on evaluation of earthquakes and other geologic hazards
DOI 10.3133/ofr77272
Authors Lynn A. Yehle
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 77-272
Index ID ofr77272
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse