Sunday, May 09, 2010


Day after day more people come to L.A.
Shhh! Don’t you tell anybody the whole place slippin’ away!
There she goes!

Where can you go when there’s no San Francisco?
Better get ready to tie up the boat in Idaho.

(Shango, late 1960s)

I grew up in Riverside, California, about 20 miles south of where the San Andreas Fault cuts through San Bernardino. While the rest of the world worried about nuclear annihilation, we California kids had an extra problem: any minute the western side of the state was going to break off and sink into the Pacific!

A school mate of mine was in Anchorage in 1964 during the horrendous 9.2 Alaska quake, but the strongest one I ever felt was centered in Sylmar in 1971 and measured 6.6. We were taught to stand in a doorway during a quake, but I never remembered to do that in time. After the Sylmar quake shook me awake, I lay in bed and watched my window twist in the wall. Californians are tough. Earthquakes? Pah! Now tornadoes—those are scary!

It might seem like the earth is shaking more frequently and more violently these days than it has in the past, but according to the US Geological Survey, things are normal. If you’re fascinated by geologic events, unexceptional or fantastic, APL can sate your curiosity.

Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis: Projects and Principles for Beginning Geologists, Matthys Levy.

The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin, and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, Nicholas Shrady.

Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man, Susan Elizabeth Hough.

Tectonic Faults: Agents of Change on a Dynamic Earth

And have another look at liblairian's post about the volcano in Iceland.


Donita Curioso said...

I remember that Sylmar quake. It was early in the morning. The windows were rattling and my big conch sea shell on the shelf above my bed was rocking back and forth. It fell off the shelf and I caught it just before it hit me in the head. Then I jumped up and ran to the doorway. Life in California.

The house was never the same after that. We lived near the railroad tracks and from then on everything shook like crazy every time a train went by. Like having a mini earthquake four times a day.

Anonymous said...

Your conch almost conked you, eh!

Aleph said...

In Costa Rica we have pretty big ones too, I've experienced a couple: 7.2 and 7.1 of magnitude. Gosh lots of memories like yours! But I cannot imagine how it is to be in one as big as the last one in Chile: 8.8! Yikes!!