During the summer of 2019, a woman observed some unusual cracks near a cliff that overlooks the Barry Arm fjord. She took some photos and sent them to her brother, who works as a geologist.
The images sparked the interest of the researchers, who decided to explore the area with the help of Google Earth. While he explored some of the areas as in-depth as possible, he forgot to look at the zone as a whole, a mistake which can be quite common in the geology field.
Another researcher became interested in the area after a few months. She was responsible for a project which sought to develop improved automatic methods that could be used to anticipate future landslides in the Arctic region. Backed by NASA, the project involved an advanced database and machine learning tools.
When the researcher explored the Barry Arm area, the results were quite interesting. A major mountainside appeared to move at a slow pace, with shifts being noticeable. If the mountainside falls into the fjord, which is located immediately below it, it could cause a major tsunami that would be empowered by the specific shape of the fjord.
Additional research revealed that the results were correct. Comparisons between Landsat images and data from ArcticDem proved that the shift was real. Other researchers and federal agencies learned about the discovery, and additional studies were made.
It is theorized that a landslide in the Barry Arm could generate a tsunami wave with a height of up to 9 meters. The wave would be able to travel across more than 50 radiometers (or 30 miles), reaching populated areas. Some researchers argue that the first shifts may have taken place more than 50 years ago.
Advanced equipment is now in place and used to monitor the region. More information could be revealed in the future.