Friday, November 18, 2011

Though The Earth Be Moved-The Good Friday Quake of March 27,1964, Alaska

As I am wont to poke around the net, looking for the odd bit of image or data concerning my vast variety of interests, I happened upon this archive of old black and white films. Hmm... thought I. So, I stayed for a bit, using the search engine on site and after entering "earthquake," up pops these two films on the March 27, 1964, Good Friday quake and tsunami. I watched, totally smitten with what I saw. Here were two short flicks about something that figured so predominantly in my childhood. Talk about a wave of nostalgia. Whoa.

Suddenly, I was thrust backwards in time to that ominous Friday when my mother was "preaching" (better term: projecting) her end of the world nightmares on my Aunt Pauline and myself. I was, at first, a casual eavesdropper; my room was adjacent to the kitchen where my mother worked from her pulpit above the sink while she cooked and Aunt Pauline was sitting in one of the straight backed, straw bottom chairs from the dining room.

"There will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth, and the worm quencheth not!" she asserted. "The earth will shake and rumble, and the sky will turn to blood! Ye know not the time the Lord cometh, but he will come!"

She so had me at the earth shaking. I leaned against the wall beside the doorway, listening, hidden. It was not like I hadn't heard it all before, but something was different. The sky was an odd yellow color and it was filled with dark clouds of varying shades of color--charcoal, gunmetal, blue steel. Jacob's ladders dropped and rose. And the day was far too warm for March; a storm was brewing.

Closer to home, the storm had already arrived in the kitchen. Mother continued..."tidal waves that will wash the earth clean, and tornadoes and hurricanes and fire and brimstone will fall from the sky." My aunt was soaking it up and I was thinking behind the wall. I was all of ten and a half years old and very impressionable.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Later that night, after the aunt had gone home and my dad was there after working all day, we were settled around the tv, watching a movie. "The Robe," I think. When there was a news report that interrupted and the reporter began to inform us intracontinentals about the Alaska quake and tidal wave. I'm sitting there, going stone cold, afraid to breathe. Was it the end of the world?

Later that night, I couldn't sleep for fear that Jesus would come and first, drown me, then take my soul straight to hell and dump my miserable, sinning butt there forever. For. Ever. I was terrified. Every drop of dew that condensed and fell on the cellar roof from the main roof outside my bedroom window was an omen of doom. If I listened very closely, I could hear the sound of roaring water in the distance, Yellow eyes reflected from the cellar roof and at first I thought it was a demon from hell come to collect me, but then I heard a "meowr" and the pain in my chest subsided as I began to breathe again.

Is it any wonder, that all of this fascinated me; even as it attracted me, I was compelled to seek answers. Real ones to hearsay. My parents didn't have a clue, and there were not many sources out in the sticks. But that spring, my parents invested in a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and I was off and running to learn the secret nature of everything.

That's enough about me for the moment. Yes, it was indeed, an adventure in geology--of the wrong kind. And within the week, this footage was broadcast on our black and white tv. I was on my way.

Enjoy this little bit of history and join me in watching "Though the Earth be Moved."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forests, S. IL

A few years ago, during autumn, I went on a joint trip with my friends, John Koons and Cheryl, his wife, to see extended family members Jim and Selena Grove who live in Southern Illinois. Jim was kind enough to drive us all around to see the local sights and so we rode east into Hardin County to see the Garden of the Gods.

 At first sight, the beauty of the heavily forested area wraps you in an unending sea of deciduous trees, interspersed with pine and cedar. The wind moves sensuously through the leaves and creates a cacophony of blunted clicks that paints the breeze with more force than it really is. But while the wind uses trickery, the surroundings do not.

Up a slanted, weaving path only a short distance, the scene unfolds on to a path that is strewn with giant (yes, the place is named justifiably so) rounded boulders that appear very old. They lay tumbled, alone and mounded precariously, all over the area, and that arena opened upon a wide stretch of sky and tree: Shawnee National Forest. The trail ends with this vista on a cuesta; a cuesta (pronounced KWEH-sta) is a ridge that is asymmetrical in cross section. One of the slopes is gently curved, but the other, which is like a cliff face, is steep without becoming entirely vertical.

The rock you stand upon is a Pounds sandstone of the Lower Pennsylvanian Caseyville formation. I was advised that one can also see such an exposure at Bell Smith Springs, but I have not been there. However, both places share such characteristics that are typical of sedimentary deposits laid down in agitated water. The uniqueness of Garden of the Gods is that these rocks contain bizarree patterns of wavelike bands that cut through the crossbedding traces of the sandstone face. These bands are called Liesegang rings, which are concentric zones of concentrated iron oxide that existed after the sediments settled. What makes these rings so stark and noticeable is that they erode much slower than the surrounding sandstone, thereby making them appear bold and wildly designed.

And that's not a fey creature in the picture; just a kid who hopefully will be bitten by the geology bug.

 To the west, the autumn clothed trees are a true spectacle and color blazes as far as the horizon. To the north lies the Eagle Creek syncline. In fact, at Garden of the Gods, we stood upon the southern side of that syncline and so the Pounds sandstone dips easily to the north. Geologically speaking, this exposed rock is a wonder to behold, but poetically speaking, one almost can see the wee folk themselves in the shadows.

 I'm heading over there where those tiny figures are standing. 

Ah, but this vista is so very distracting!
(Northern view)

 Went to the edge and that drop is a "fur piece" down there.

Almost there...

 Okay, I'm just a tad distracted.

Sneaking a peek at the west

I'm almost there--little more to go.

This is it!

 Made it! Wow. Look at all that color.

And that hump is part of that southern side of the syncline.

What trip would be worthwhile without the company of good friends. Below are (L to R) Becky, Jim, Selena, Cheryl, and John. Love you guys! You "rock" my world!

Hope you enjoyed our visit to the rocky side of southern Illinois. Stay tuned for the next adventure, which will be coming soon. Promise.

PS A special thanks to Raymond Wiggers for his geological information on the area in his "Geology Underfoot in Illinois."