Episode 339:

Grab Your Chapstick

The 1989 Mount Asahidake SOS Incident


The 1964 Alaska Earthquake


Episode 339: Grab Your Chapstick

This week, Georgia tells the mysterious story of the 1989 Mount Asahidake SOS incident and Karen covers the 1964 Alaska earthquake.

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

The 1989 Mount Asahidake SOS Incident

The 1989 Mount Asahidake SOS Incident Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Daniel Leone on Unsplash

Other Images:

Mt. Asahidake (via MIXA courtesy of Alamy)

The SOS sign on Mt. Asahidake in 1989 (via Wikipedia)

Kenji Iwamura (via Ceiling Gallery)

18-year-old Steven Ray Morris hiking Mt. Fuji in Japan (photo attached)


"A reporter looking for clues about who spelled out a giant SOS sign with birch branches on a mountain slope has found nearby the driver’s license of a man who disappeared on the mountain in 1984.

But police said Sunday they have not found the climber’s body nor have they identified human bones, thought to be a woman’s, also found near the SOS on the 7,514-foot Mount Asahidake on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The case has been followed closely by the Japanese media since the SOS was first spotted July 24.

Koyo Aburatani, a reporter for the Hokkaido television station HBC, said he found a driver’s license, two cameras, a notebook and other items in a large hole beneath the roots of some trees 165 feet from the SOS sign Saturday.

The name on them was Kenji Iwamura of Konan City, Aichi Prefecture.

Police said Iwamura, then 22, set out hiking on Asahidake on July 10, 1984. When he failed to appear for work a week later, his parents asked police to search for him, but they found no trace.

Police said the hole in which the license was found was large enough for a human to crawl in.

The English SOS letters, each measuring about 16 feet long and 10 feet wide, were first sighted July 24 by the crew of a police helicopter searching for another missing climber. The object of that search, a climber from Tokyo, was rescued, but he said he knew nothing of the SOS sign.

Near the distress sign, police found human bones and a knapsack containing a tape recorder, a towel, soap and other articles, including cassette tapes.

Medical examinations said the bones belonged to a woman, but police said Thursday that one of the tapes contained a man’s voice calling for help.

Officers said Iwamura’s parents were not sure about the voice on the tape, but they identified articles in the knapsack as their son’s.

Police had suspended their investigation Saturday. It was not immediately clear whether they would reopen it because of the reporter’s findings..."

— Source: AP News article, “Driver’s License Found Near SOS on Mountain Slope”

The 1964 Alaska Earthquake

The 1964 Alaska Earthquake Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Jens Aber on Unsplash

Other Images:

Pier in Valdez, Alaska in the 1930s or 1940s (H. Armstrong Roberts courtesy of Alamy)

Downtown Anchorage after the earthquake (Wikipedia Commons)

Valdez, Alaska after the earthquake and tsunami (NOAA via The Atlantic)

Genie Chance (Public Domain)


"At 5:36 p.m. March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America, a 9.2-magnitude on the Richter scale, shook south-central Alaska, sending buildings toppling in Anchorage.

The massive quake unleashed a tsunami that reached heights of 150 feet in the open ocean and spread across the Pacific, striking the coasts of southeast Alaska,  British Columbia and United States.

Of the three states on the West Coast, California — and especially Crescent City near the Oregon border — was the hardest hit by four tidal waves waves that arrived just before midnight. A monster swell flooded the town, killing 12 people and causing an estimated $15 million in damage.

​​The tsunami also impacted the Bay Area. The San Francisco Chronicle reported March 29 that the tidal wave created havoc in harbors inside the Golden Gate..."

— Source: SF Gate article by Amy Graff

Georgia's Episode Sources

Reddit, Unresolved Mysteries Post by Super_King_U_Rule, “The Mount Asahidake S.O.S. Incident”

Reddit, Unresolved Mysteries Post by apis_cerana post, “The Mystery of the SOS Sign On The Mountain and a Corpse, Found By Complete Coincidence”

Reddit, MorbidReality Post by Responsible_Yam_689, “Recording Of Kenji Iwamura Yelling For Help From 1985 Who Was Stuck At A Hike At Daisetsuzan”

AP News article, “Driver’s License Found Near SOS on Mountain Slope”

Strange Outdoors “The Mysterious Mount Asahidake SOS incident”


Read.cash blog article by Pantera, “The Mysterious SOS Sign in Japan”

Tezukaosamu.net page

Mysterious Universe article by Brent Swancer, “The Strange Case of the Bizarre Vanishings and Mysterious SOS Signal of Japan”  

Listverse.com article by Shaun Hennessy, “Top 10 Chilling Unexplained SOS Calls”

Wikipedia, “SOS Incident”

Wikipedia, “SOS Distress Incident”

Karen's Episode Sources

“Chronology of Physical Events of the Alaskan Earthquake” by Genie Chance. 1966.

“This Is Chance! The Great Alaska Earthquake, Genie Chance, and the Shattered City She Held Together” by Jon Mooallem

“On Shaky Ground: America's Earthquake Alert” by John Nance. 1988.

USGS, “The 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis—A Modern Perspective and Enduring Legacies”

USGS, “M9.2 Alaska Earthquake  and Tsunami of March 27, 1964”

Twitter thread by Alaska Earthquake Center. 2019.

Anchorage Daily News article by David Hulen “In harm's way: Valdez and Chenega Bay years fail to erase memories of quake” 

New York Times article by Jon Mooallem “This Is How You Live When the World Falls Apart”

Anchorage Daily News, “Condemned no more; 50 years after huge earthquake, building moratorium expiring in Valdez.”

New York Times/The Daily, “Genie Chance and the Great Alaska Earthquake”

Geophysical Institute, “When Valdez Moved: The Good Friday Earthquake” by Ned Rozell

The Atlantic, “1964: Alaska's Good Friday Earthquake” by Alan Taylor

“1964 Earthquake at Valdez” (Alaska Film Archives)

History.com, “1964 Alaska Earthquake” 

USGS, “The Alaska Earthquake: Effects on Communities”

Alaska Division of Public Health, “Health Analytics and Vital Records, Alaska Facts and Figures: 1964 Earthquake Mortality in Alaska”

United States Department of the Interior, “ALASKA'S GOOD FRIDAY EARTHQUAKE MARCH 27,1964”

Earth Magazine article by Sara E. Pratt, “Benchmarks: March 27, 1964: The Good Friday Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis”

“Tsunami!” by Walter Dudley and Min Lee

USA Today article by Thomas Frohlich “The Deadliest Earthquakes Of All Time”

San Francisco Chronicle article by Bill Van Niekerkan “California’s Most Destructive Earthquakes”

Washington Post article by Julia Mio Inuma and Andrew Jeong

Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, “1964 M9.2 GREAT ALASKAN EARTHQUAKE”

Alaska Historical Society article by Anjuli Grantham “Remembering Kaguyak”

United States Coast Guard article by Beth Crumley

SF Gate article by Amy Graff “The Day In 1964 When A Tsunami Ravaged Crescent City”

USGS, “The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake”

Anchorage Daily News article by Doug O’Hara “Port Valdez recovers from 1964 Good Friday Earthquake”