By Joanna Bastian
Recently, I traveled to San Francisco and used the Uber app to get from numerous points A to various points B. In the land of seafood, wine and earthquakes, the Uber drivers all discussed a recent New Yorker article about a pending earthquake not in California, but in Washington state. One Uber driver gleefully described the event as a full-on tectonic plate rupture. She narrated grisly details of the Pacific Northwest plunging into the sea while molten lava tsunamis eradicated Starbucks and flannel.
“The Really Big One,” by Kathryn Schulz, contains a few sparse lines on geologic evidence of a past earthquake based on Native American oral histories, Japanese tsunami records and tree rings. The next two-thirds of the article is a macabre tale of future doom based on the author’s imagination.
The same week the New Yorker published the doom-and-gloom piece, Seattle’s irreverent online news source, Grist, responded with an article of its own. Katie Herzog wrote “The Good News about the Earthquake That Will Destroy the Northwest.” In typical Pacific Northwest fashion, the author responds to the “The Really Big One” with a tongue-in-cheek look on the bright side:
The big one will result in an increase in affordable housing. Abandoned luxury condos and artisanal cheese shops are suddenly “free rein for squatters.” Bertha the tunnel-digging machine will finally shake loose. Traffic jams no longer exist, as the infrastructure collapses into the bay. And, in the end, “the carbon footprint of your lifeless body sliding downhill is zero.”
The New York Times decided to jump on the quake wagon and publish an article criticizing the Grist for “distributing a blithe listicle.” Which doesn’t even make sense. If you happen to read the New Yorker article, do your funny bone a favor and read the Grist article right along with it. Don’t bother with the New York Times article, it is as boring as that one guy who always interrupts an interesting conversation with his own opinion void of facts.
For more palpitating earthquake fun, check out earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/states/events/1872_12_15.php and look up the historic 1872 earthquake that shook communities near Lake Chelan. A magnitude 6.8 temblor resulted in huge landslides, massive fissures, geysers, and a notched log.
From the book First on the Land, by Chuck Borg, there is the account of Chus-chutl (also known as Rose Marie Iswald) who was camped near the mouth of the Wenatchee River in December of 1872 when suddenly the earth shook and the Columbia River ran dry.
The massive earthquake shattered Broken Mountain. It tumbled into the Columbia River, forming a dam that stopped the flow of the river for hours. The fault line can still be seen at the site, now called Ribbon Cliffs. The islands along Highway 97 below the cliffs are remnants of Broken Mountain.
Near Chelan Falls, a 9-meter-high geyser shot into the air for several days. The geyser created the permanent springs that can still be seen near Chelan Falls.
A 1978 edition of the Wenatchee World shares another recollection of the quake of 1872. Sam Miller chopped a notch in a log for every tremor. When the quake stopped, there were 63 notches in the log.
Unrelated to the earthquake, Chus-chutl’s daughter Lucy grew up to marry Sam Miller’s son, Sam Miller Jr. Their grandchildren, the Miller family, still live along the Methow River in the lower valley.
No word on if the notched log still exists.