Y.B. Finchless!

Indeed! Remember:

"A day without finches is a day without sunshine"

Earthquakes I have known..

We're Old School

Nuclear explosions I have witnessed..

I had to bush-wack my way back up into the woods mid-winter 1997 to figure out why the spring system (it used to supply our water) had gone dry...

Turned out that there had been a catastrophic geologic event (kinda melodramatic, but it's still the only way I can describe it.)

Where once the spring system had been a -- well, a spring seeping out of the side of the canyon that carries the drainage from the Whispering Firs bog -- was now a fresh new canyon forty feet wide at its mouth, maybe sixty feet deep, and winding back out of site for several hundred feet!

Just me an' my panga!

This catastrophic failure of *something* up above (I don't think there were any ponds up there..) had carved the canyon as a new tributary of the Whispering Firs creek, and the force scoured a clear cut onto the opposite side of the main canyon, with the splash of mud and destruction in an arc maybe one hundred feet across and fifty feet high up the opposite side.

The channel of the Whispering Firs creek was filled with debris maybe six feet deep where I'm sitting, and the debris washed down-stream for hundreds of yards...

The spring system was completely gone.

There was no sign of it anywhere: just the odd length of pvc water line tangled into the mass of tree trunks and branches and rocks and mud that now covered the creek bottom.

We kinda got the spring system going again, kinda, but it was never the same, and now that Water District 19's run an eight-inch main up the road, we're on our well full-time and the spring system's dead...

This was all from an enormous rain storm we had in February of 1997, after the Winter Storm of '96.

Interesting stuff that's happened to me...

Earthquakes I have known


Check out the University of Washington's Pacific Northwest Earthquake Information web page

1952  7 21 1152utc    35.0N   119.1.00W   MAGNITUDE 7.7  Kern County earthquake

July 21, 1952. The Fort Tejon earthquake. Magnitude 7.7.

I was - what? - almost four.

Living in Pasadena, California. I remember to this day being awakened, walking out in to the living room where the venetian blinds were banging on the window frames, letting in light from a street light out on the street, and two big hammered brass plates my mom had hanging on the opposite wall in the living room bang-bang-bang banging on the wall as the whole house shook...

1964  3 28 0336utc           MAGNITUDE 9.2 --  Prince William Sound, Alaska

This one *was* a trip! The Good Friday quake, March 28, 1962. 9.2 magnitude, 'way up in Alaska!

I was surfing with my buddies over at Torrance Beach in south Santa Monica Bay, Los Angeles, and we were utterly amazed as the tide fell and rose and fell and rose, 'way lower and 'way higher than the normal tidal range for that day, all within a few minutes, as I remember.

It was some kind of tsunami, tidal-wave deal - not a wave like in the movies but the ocean moving through a full tidal range, twice, in very short time. We didn't know what to make of it at the time, and it was only years and years later that I put that old memory together with other stuff I had learned, to figure out what I had seen...

1971  2  9 1400utc    34.25.00N 118.24.00   MAGNITUDE 6.5  San Fernando, CA

The '71 San Fernando earthquake. Magnitude 6.5.

I was sleeping in a second story apartment in an old, old house in Long Beach, California, with my first wife when this one woke us up.

I still remember having this vivid mental image of all the nails in the old house wiggling their way out of the wood framing of the house as it shook, and it collapsing in a cloud of dust! Fortunately that didn't happen...

1989 10 18 0004utc    37.2.19N 121.52.98W   MAGNITUDE 7.1  Loma Prieta, CA

The Loma Prieta earthquake, October 18, 1989. Magnitude 7.1. I was watching the World Series intro *as* this one happened. Watched what had happened to San Francisco and Oakland as it all was broadcast.

Sh*t... I sure hope that doesn't happen here.

1995 01 29 0311utc    47.38N 122.35W   MAGNITUDE  5.0  17.5 km NNE of Tacoma, WA

"Robinson Point, WA - January 28, 1995 (Jan. 29 UTC) Mag. 5.0. The largest earthquake in the Seattle area since April 1965 (until the Duvall quake). Located beneath Maury Island in Puget Sound."

Rosalie was with me; I was watching TV and she was on the computer when it happened: the house moved very clearly in a northwest-southeast motion and left the birdcages swinging in that alignment.

I thought it was pretty exciting: the first earthquake I'd really *felt* in a long time! Rosalie thought it was pretty exciting, too.

Friday July 2, 1999 06:43 PM PDT -- MAGNITUDE 4.1 -- 4.2 mi N of Satsop, WA 

This was another one that I felt, barely, and mostly confirmed by the swinging of the bird cages... I was just home from work, and the whole house started shaking!

I filled out the EARTHQUAKE FELT FORM at the University of Washington's Pacific Northwest Earthquake Information web page.

The Nisqually Earthquake
Wednesday February 28, 2001 10:54 AM PST -- MAGNITUDE 6.8 -- 11.3 miles NE of Olympia, WA

I was at work at DDES, the King County, WA Building Department, in a staff meeting deep in the middle of the first floor of the three-story DDES building in Renton, WA.

The staff meeting was composed of about fourteen building plans examiners...

The building shook strongly for a moment and stopped, and we all went silent and looked at one another and somebody laughed.

And then it started to shake again, stronger, and we all jumped onto the floor and under whatever seemed safest nearby, and the building shook and creaked and I had a brief flash of all three floors pancaking down on us as it continued to creak and shake, and the lights flickered once and the shaking stopped.

And we all got up off the floor and I got the hell out of the building and outside into the parking lot, away from from the building and tried to call Rosalie on my cell phone.

The cellular system was overloaded already and there were no available circuits...


We had quite a bit of stuff broken at home, and lots of new cracks in drywall over the windows facing Puget Sound, but no actual serious damage.

Nuclear explosions I have witnessed


Yes. Really. Didn't know it, at the time..

My folks had a sailboat from early in my life (about three on..) and we used to sail over to Catalina Island off Los Angeles a lot; in fact, we lived over there at the Isthmus every summer, all summer, for years on the Te Ma'tai e -- the Good Wind, a 30' Tahiti ketch..

But I digress..

My dad was an ex-newspaper reporter for the Pasadena Star News and most of my folks' buddies were newspaper people.

One evening in July, 1957, several of them came down from Pasadena to our house in San Pedro, and we had dinner and went out on the boat, at night, which was *extremly* unusual. Like, we *never* went out at night...

And all we did was to go out past the San Pedro light, out through the Los Angeles breakwater, and power 'way out into the Catalina channel, and shut off the engine, and sit and wait, rocking in the swell and keeping an eye out for freighters..

It was maybe midnight, maybe after...

I was almost 10 years old.

I wasn't paying any attention to the adults (being the only kid..) but suddenly I was drawn to some hubbub at the stern, where all the adults were, and they were all standing staring back towards the mainland and the lights of San Pedro and Long Beach off to the east.

We were maybe ten miles offshore, so the lights of the city were 'way far away, and it was absolutely pitch dark where we were.

And they're all standing staring back at the mainland, and someone is counting off the time off a watch, and suddenly the eastern horizon lights up like it's sunrise!

Except it's well after midnight.

And except this appears over the horizon in an instant, like someone's switched on a spotlight on the backside of the San Gabriel mountains from some distance 'way 'way off to the east.

If you were to hold up both arms at your sholders straight out, and measure off the width of the horizon that's between your outstretched hands, that's how much of the distant San Gabriel mountains were being silhouetted by some enormously brilliant light 'way off behind them!

The crest of the mountains stood out in stunning relief against this brilliant white light -- you couldn't see what was *making* the light, just that something was shining brilliantly on the back side of the mountains.

And slowly it faded out to blackness, and the adults talked quietly amongst themselves, and my dad put on the engine and we powered back toward land and in through the San Pedro light and in to the dock and we all got into cars and went back to our house and I went to bed while my folks and their buddies partied...

I don't recall anyone explaining to me what had just happened, what we had witnessed, what the heck we were doing out there...

I kept this very vivid and completely unexplained memory for many years -- probably well up into my thirties -- when some train of thought led me to do some investigating, and I figured out what this was all about:

My folks and I had sailed out to witness an above-ground test of a thermonuclear device (a hydrogen bomb) at Yucca Flats, Nevada.

We were about 275 miles from ground zero when it went off.

It looked like a sunrise, but was much faster and whiter and brighter, *bang* it was on and then it slowly faded out to blackness, and it lit up a much narrower arc of the horizon.

It still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I think about it.

We might have seen this test: (given my dad's connections in the news world, and his connections dating back to WWII when he did crypto for the Army, he could have probably known when to take us out to see a big one...)

                Test:  Hood
                Time:  11:40.00.4 5 July 1957 (GMT)
            Location:  Nevada Test Site, Area 9a (Yucca Flat)
Test Height and Type:  Balloon-carried air burst at 1500 feet
               Yield:  74 kilotons

"Hood was the largest atmospheric test ever conducted at NTS
(and in the continental U.S.). This was a test of a two-stage
thermonuclear device designed by UCRL (University of California
Radiation Laboratory), even though the U.S. government stated at
the time that no thermonuclear tests were being conducted in Nevada.

The design was intended to fill a gap in 300-400 lb. thermonuclear
warhead technology, and was tested at reduced yield. The predicted
yield was 60-80 kilotons.

The device itself used a boosted Swan primary (which gave yields
of 12-19 kilotons in other tests during Plumbbob). About 7 kilotons
of the overall yield was from fusion. The device was a small diameter
system (12.1 inches) and was 42.2 inches long. Total device weight
was 393 lb.

The test also included troop maneuvers by 2500 Marines, and air
operations by 124 aircraft."

Hood: 74 kiloton thermonuclear bomb,
Yucca Flats, Nevada, 07/05/57

Few people really realize how close the nuclear arms race came to throwing human civilization into the furnace of hell.


Canon EOS 10D Digital Imaging!

All my digital photography
copyright John D Sage/FinchHaven
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004...

Any and all e-mail addresses associated with this domain in any way
are located in the State of Washington,
and as such may not, by law, be harvested for spam.

This page preened using GNU Emacs 21.2.1
at www.FinchHaven.com by Webmaster
Last modified: Thu 22 Dec 2016 10:18:31 PM PST


Goto the Top