THE THIRD PLANET
E. R. Swanson – spring 2009
What Happens When the Earth Moves?
An earthquake is a violent vibration of the earth produced by a rapid release
from a volcanic eruption, magma movement, perhaps due to a nuclear
mostly commonly resulting from rock movement along a fault
is it like to be in an earthquake?
The sensation ranges from a slight shaking of the ground
to conditions that include fairly large waves rolling across the ground that make walking
People may even become disoriented and nauseated as if they were seasick.
To illustrate further, we can call upon the “novel” talents of Mark Twain, Jack London
Mark Twain (1835–1910) briefly (very briefly) served in the Confederate army
during the Civil War, a war that pitted brother against brother, and then headed west with
his Unionist brother to experience the rapidly fading Wild West.
He visited the
Comstock Lode in Nevada, and he wrote briefly for the local paper.
He continued west
over the Sierra Nevada and down through the California gold fields were he saw a
jumping frog contest in Calaveras Country and wrote about that.
In the fall of 1865,
Twain found himself in San Francisco just in time to experience his first earthquake.
excerpts below are from
, a book Twain penned about his Western
experiences that includes a pretty good description of what happens during a large quake.
As I turned the corner, around a frame house, there was a great rattle and jar,
and it occurred to me that here was an item!--no doubt a fight in that house. Before I
could turn and seek the door, there came a terrific shock; the ground seemed to roll
under me in waves, interrupted by a violent joggling up and down, and there was a heavy
grinding noise as of brick houses rubbing together.
I fell up against the frame house and
hurt my elbow. I knew what it was now.
.. a third and still severer shock came, and as I
reeled about on the pavement trying to keep my footing, I saw a sight! The entire front of
a tall four-story brick building on Third Street sprung outward like a door and fell
sprawling across the street, raising a great dust-like volume of smoke!
Every door, of every house, as far as the eye could reach, was vomiting a stream
of human beings; and almost before one could execute a wink and begin another, there
was a massed multitude of people stretching in endless procession down every street my
position commanded. Never was a solemn solitude turned into teeming life quicker.
The plastering that fell from ceilings in San Francisco that day would have
covered several acres of ground. For some days afterward, groups of eyeing and
pointing men stood about many a building, looking at long zig-zag cracks that extended
from the eaves to the ground. Four feet of the tops of three chimneys on one house were
broken square off and turned around in such a way as to completely stop the draft.
A crack a hundred feet long gaped open six inches wide in the middle of one