The Aleutian Islands are a chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller islands that form a dividing line between the Bering Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Scotch Cap Lighthouse was established at the southwest corner of Unimak Island, the largest of the Aleutians, in 1903. It was the first station established on Alaska’s outside coast.
In 1940, a new concrete-reinforced lighthouse and combined fog signal building replaced the original structure. On April 1, 1946, a massive earthquake struck the North Pacific, spawning a tsunami that traveled north to the Aleutian Islands. The lighthouse was destroyed, and five Coast Guard keepers were killed.
For the past two and a half years, author Peter Kaufman has been researching and writing about the 1946 Scotch Cap disaster. His work will be published as a book. He talks about the disaster and his research in this interview.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org