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tv   Henry Fountain The Great Quake  CSPAN  July 22, 2018 7:49am-8:46am EDT

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franklin delano roosevelt toward the liberty of the democracy is not secret people tolerate the growth of private power to a pointwhere it becomes greater than the democratic date itself . in essence is fascism. if we want to pass a livable planet onto our children, then it's time to work together to resolve our problems. this land is your land, this land is my land . let's put the ultimate civics back in our democracy. thank youvery much . [applause]
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>> alaska weekend continues with new york times science reporter henry felton on the largest earthquake recorded in north america which march 27 1964 in alaska. the quake which measured 9.2 on the richter scale killed over 130people . quick good evening. i'm bradley graham, co-owner of politics and prose along with my wife and on behalf of the staff, thankyou very much for coming . so if you're like me, you pick up henry felton's new book "the great quake" and you immediately assumeit's about some california disaster . what you don't think about is
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alaska unless you are perhaps an earthquake specialist or some trivia master. alaska is exactly where the great quick happened on march 27th 1964. 9.2 on the richter scale, was the biggest earthquake ever recorded in north america and the second most powerful in world history. does anyone know the most powerful? >> the answer is chile in 1960. and that one register 9.5. the one in alaska lasted more than four minutes which is an incredibly long for an earthquake. the human tragedy and damage of it all are dramatically and vividly captured by henry in his book but the quake's impact on people, on structures and on the landscape is only part of the story that henry tells.
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his book also is a story about how a major natural disaster ended up spurring scientific inquiry and that part of the story centers around one individual in particular, the geologists with the us geological survey named george laxer. plaster wasn't an earthquake but he alaska and arrived a day after the earthquake to investigate what happened. we will study you produce will explain what caused the rupture, confirm what is now the widely accepted idea of comics but when the time was a controversial and much. the notion and i'm not even going to begin to get into plate tectonics because you're going to hear a lot more about it from henry in a minute. this is henry's first book he's particularly still combining the human interest story within history of scientific advancement.
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he's a veteran journalist who after papers in paris, new york and bridgeport connecticut joined the new york times where he's been two decades as a reporter or editor writing about science for much of that time. for a decade from 1999 2009 he wrote observatory, a weekly column in the science section. he was an editor on the national debt , the national news desk and the sunday review and was one of the first editors of circuit, the times pioneering technology section. these days henry report on climate change and the new york times as a whole group of science to cover just this critical issue. a review in the los angeles times called the great quick and outstanding work of nonfiction, one that weaves together snapshots the whole il world and primal power of
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nature and i science. please, joinme in welcoming henry felton . >>. >> thank you so much for having me, i appreciate it i want to ask , anybody here in alaska in 1964 experienced the quake? anybody? i'm not surprised because people on the east coast. >> we're alive short-term memory. >> very good. people on the east coast generally don't know much about the quick before we get started i have to do one thing, i have toset the timer for reasons that will become apparent . the leaders running out of time. okay, so the tires going. so i talk a little bit about how this came about. as he said, i was, i've been
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a science writer for a long time and i wrote astory in 2014 about the anniversary of this earthquake . and it wasn't really about the 50th anniversary because excuse me, because cathe new york times was too cool. we don't really write anniversary stories so instead, sure. also feel free to anytime you've got a question. to just go ahead and ask them. hopefully will have time afterwards as well. but so as a you will have noted, this earthquake happened on march 27 1964 so in march 2014 i started getting emails from the us geological survey which by the way is my favorite federal agency. and the emails were basically telling me and lots of other
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people about the 50th anniversary of this earthquake and all the work that was done especially a geological survey geologists by the name of george. as i said, the new york times were pretty cool, wedon't like to do anniversarystories so i put it aside although i heard about the quick . i was interested . so the anniversary came and went , didn't do a story and lo and behold on april 1 four days later there was a really big earthquake inchile, 8.2 earthquake . gently there was very little loss of life. i think six people died but there were a couple of nominees, a tsunami warning in hawaii. i went to my editors and said ordinarily we probably wouldn't write about an 8.2 earthquake in chile that only killed six people but i could write a story about this earthquake and relate it back to the alaska one because when the chilean point, everybody, scientists and the
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news media immediately referred to it as a mega earthquake, the kind of quake where you have one piece of crust sliding under another and something breaks, friction builds up and you have reviewed and nowadays everybody knows what an earthquake is and they happen all the time but the 2011 earthquake in japan was a mega thrust earthquake, the one that led to all this soon on the deaths in 2004 and this earthquake in chile was a megathrust earthquake but in 1964 nobody had any clue as to what these earthquakes were and it was because of the 64 quake and the work of george plaster that science figured it out. george is responsible for figuring it out though i said
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i can write a story that says that. it's a sneaky way to do an anniversary story and they idbasically, i think my editors thought it was a good idea and also they had a hole to fill in the sciencesection they said go ahead . i did the story and it ran and a couple days later i got an email out of the blue from an editor named roger scholl and i get emails every once in a while from editors and usually their ideas are kind of dumb or silly or whatever. in this case roger said i read your article and i thought it was interesting that i thought it might make for an interesting book because you have both the narrative of the earthquake, the story of the earthquake and these incredible things and the story of the scientists plaster who did all this work and maybe he's a character you can flesh out. maybe your characters in the earthquake you can flesh out and i thought that's not a bad idea.
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so i got in touch with george plaster who still alive and he seemed like kind of a character. and then in the next paragraph of the email, roger said we published eric larson's book and this comes like an eric larson book to me so i parked up right away because if you're familiar with eric larson you know he's one of the most popular nonfiction writers around and sells a lot of books so let me say one thing and then i'll wrap up this part of the talk and we can go on and talk about the other stuff . that was four and half minutes. that's the amount of time that the ground shook during the alaskan earthquake. so think about that. by comparison, the 1906, the great 1906 earthquake in san
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francisco shook for about a minute. the earthquake that damaged the bay bridge shook for 30 seconds at most. so you get a sense of the power of the quick so let me wrap up. >> .. there was a meteorologist at the time who played a different role in it. there's no way i'm going to write and erik larson book can be anywhere near as successful as him. on the other hand, by mentioning
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it, he became instantly clear to me what kind of book roger was talking there's nonfiction where you weave in elements of the story, both the actual disaster and the science. that's what i tried to do. i wanted to talk about two things. one is the quake itself, and the other being the science. this is anchorage the day after the quake, and that's downtown. you will notice it's almost like there's an elevator there, because that part of the street dropped about ten feet. one of the reason i wanted to write this book is because i didn't know much about it and it but i talked to, even when i wrote that story, even among my site collects, iqu would say the was an earthquake, and they
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would ask, like, where was it? i would say alaska. and then they would say when was it? i would say 1964. that was usually the conversation. what can you really talk about? nobody knew much about it but, in fact, once you start to get into it, it was really an and people saw stuff they'd never seen before. people experienced terrible, terrible things and it was pretty something. so part of for me writing the book was learning about this earthquake and talking to people who had lived through it. and also reading first-hand accounts of it. i don't know if there's any other authors who write i guess you could call this history some, but i found actually talking to survivors because it was so y long ago, 50 years ago, that actually, number one, the
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memories are not as strong after five decades. but number two, particularly and a place like alaska where communities are really big thing, they are kind of isolated, particularly in towns like valdez and stuff, community is really big, peoples tell the story. they tend to share the stories. everybody's story gets homogenized. a lot of the stories and up sounding the same. so for me it was actually in some way althoughh i did talk to a lot of survivors it was more useful to read a first-hand accounts of the people written during the time or shortly after the quake. there was one person in particular in anchorage who compiled a lot of these, her name was genie chance and her archives were really, really helpful. as i i said people saw stuff they've never seen before, things happened that just unbelievable things like tops of
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mountains shattering oftennd causing huge landslides and huge lakes that are covered with some feet of ice just breaking up into hundreds and hundreds of pieces or forming pressure ridges or whatever. cars bouncing around like bumper cars. buildings wriggling likebu caterpillars. the ground wriggled like a pebble had been thrown into it. it was rippling in the water. it was really amazing. anchorage had a particular problem. a lot of it is built, the soil underneath the soil as a layer of clay called bootlegger called clay. during this earthquake it liquefied essentially, came greece.ike part of anchorage slid and subsided and collapsed. what happened here is the land all sort of shifted that way.
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there is a hill to the left and the kind of shifted down a hill. there was also a part of town, and i thought i might read just a little -- is is my copy? a little section of what happened in tourniquet heights. if you've ever been to anchorage, public airport, the international airport is still,, you're still a neighborhood out there but indy early '60s they built a pretty nice n neighborhd called tourniquet heights it was the nicest neighborhood in town, nice subdivision.a a lot of accounts movers and shakers slid there including a guy by the name of robert applewood who ran thehe local paper, publisher of the local paper and he was much more than that. he was very involved in the state to push in 1959 and knew everybody. he was also learning how to play
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the trumpet, and he was really bad at it, and so he would only play the trumpet, on the practice when nobody was at his house. so 5:00 on march 27, his wife went to go shopping because they were having people over for dinner that night. and he used that as an excuse to break out the trumpet instructor practice. here's what happened. >> no sooner had he put the instrument to his lips though in the house started rocking. a chandelier hanging from am bm on the living room began to sway. soon the whole house was lurching about. it was obvious the house wouldn't stay in one place for long. the large roof in particular seemed in danger skating and given out every other part of the structure was bending at odd angles. he ran out the door and down the driveway. when he stopped and looked back, the ground under the house was moving, stretching the structural part one moment and compressing the next as if it were a giant squeezebox.
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that didn't last long as the forces of the earth he came too much for the house. it broke apart to a terrible noise of glass cracking, huge log splitting and houses contents been crushed and crumpled. getting out whenum he had saved his life. but he didn't have much time to think about that. or about the loss of his worldly possessions. random trees were falling over. the ground itself was starting to break into strange angular blocks. some are getting up and others down. it was this swarms of organisms with the size of soil giving of life. he began to wonder if you would be able to stand anywhere. suddenly a crevice open beneath his feet and he was falling. it seemed he felt a long-distance and although it was still light up, suddenly he was in darkness. but he landed in sand miraculously soft and try. he saw he was in a deep v-shaped cavern and it was starting to fill up with other objects, tree stumps, fenceposts and boulder
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sized chunks of frozen soil. his right arm seemed to be buried in the sand and realize that his right hand was still holding thehe trumpet. old trees were falling into the crevice which is getting wider and growing towards the house of his neighbor. he could see their house through the chasm. it appeared to be sliding towards him. after a s while he wasn't sure w long the house stopped moving. in fact, he realized everything had stopped moving or at least was only living moving slightl. it was quiet except foror the occasional crash of the infrastructure of trees. he let go of the trumpet, wiggled his arm free and slowly climbed out of the crevice. so that's not the kind of thing that happens every day, really. he managed, he found the neighbors kids and found some of the people, all managed to crawl out of the area until they got to what was essentially a newly
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formed bluff where there were some rescuers with ropes and ladders. but it was really just one indication of the strange things that happened and the book is a lot more, particularly i wanted to focus a lot -- bank which was most populous part of the state, and what happens with? as george and others will tell you, study them for a long time, the mosts populous place tends o be identified with the earthquake because that's where all the people are. and, in fact, you can carry that a little bit for the cook a lot of earthquakes happen, powerful earthquakes happen when nobody lives and nobody knows about them. scientists know about them but they don't get reported in the media or anything. in this case everybody thought the anchorage with quick, andn the fact there was a lot of damage in anchorage but only five or six fatalities.ut
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whereas there's two communities in particular the really suffered and those off the two that i really wanted to focus on. one was valdez, which we all know now is the tremendous of the alaska oil pipeline, and the other is this thoughtl native village on an island in prince william sound, and it's, it was hit by a tsunami, a tidal wave, and a third of the people in the village, died. so i go into that a lot and i was really interesting. i met people from the village, to a lot of detective work, it had a one-room schoolhouse at the top of the hill and they hired teachers from out of state every year, the bureau of indian affairs hired teachers in at a state to teach, and that you do as a teacher from long beach, california, who was teaching there, and i managed after like a month of detective work to figure out who she was in finder and track her down partly
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through the use of facebook, of all things. not on facebook but a danish guy on facebook in denmark. so i talked to people who survived the quake and chris mattson, kristen weikel was the name of the schoolteacher, she was actual, to help peoples memories of the quake can't get homogenous. she had not shared her memoriesn with that many people other than her family and occasionally she was a schoolteacher so occasionally she would talk about it atk school. so her memories really pretty fresh still after 50 years plus she took some photos which nobody had ever seen four. that was really great. but there were a lot of people who did want to talk about, even 50 years later didn't want to talk about theo earthquake. so tried to respect their feelings. and if you can kind of
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understand, ion mentioned before like people on the east coast of know what he asserted with quick before. people in alaska, either they were in it, their parents were in it, theem grandparents were , pretty much everybody rememberse it. it was a huge event. if it hadha happened somewhere else with large population we would all still be talking about it today. so that's the quake itself and that was a big part of it for me was just learning more about the quake and realizing howow amazig it was picked if they want to talk about is the science, which in addition to like what people don't know about s the quake, wn i talked with earthquake, if mentioning i was working on a book about a earthquake that happened 50 years ago t in alasa didn't stop the conversation, then we would get to talk about so it's interesting about it? i would think the most interesting actually is that at the time of the quake nobody really knew or though still a big debate about what
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earthquakes like this happened, whether, in fact, what we all come to talk except, this idea that the globe is made of a bunch of different places, the surface of the globe is right up into about 12 or so large plate and the move around in relation to each other. what we call plate tectonics. in 1964 it was a subject of really, really great debate. and wasn't like, i compare to like the climate change debate today where you have on one side you have thousands andan thousas of scientists, and the other side you have almost no scientist. you've other people but you almost no scientist. in 1964, the '60s, there was a big debate about the structure of the earth and should really prominent scientists on both sides. the good people who thought this i did the continents somehow moved around, this idea first
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developed in the 19 teens, continental drift. there were people very prominent people who thought that was poppycock essentially and there's no way that the continents could move like that. they were called the success of the stableists. they had a lot of alternative explanations. by 1964 there was this idea that to a lot of work people like harry hess and fred vine, people like that, they discovered that there's new, what we call seafloor spreading where big magna oozes out of rigid in the middle of the ocean and spreads apart and news very slowly like on the order of two inches a year out in both directions. the issue is what happens -- that was much except. the issue became what happens to stop when it reaches the margins, which is the continent
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side? thehe stableists thought maybe e expedition is that the entire globe is actually getting slightly bigger and that would be hard to measure because of the crust is onlyhe growing two inches a year, it's going to be pretty hard to measure the size of the earth to that degree of certainty. but the other side which was gaining more and more force, the argument was getting much more credence, with a mobile us who thought this crust is created in the middle, it loses out, spreads out, the seafloor spreads. when he gets to the continental margins it actually goes underneath, renounce essentially and eventually finds its way back to the rich.he it's almost like what they call a conveyor belt. in fact, that's how they refer to it. and so, because it's going out and pushing against the
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continent would force the continents to move. it would also do things like create mountains and stuff as materials scraped off the seafloor hit the continents and stuff. so that debate was really, really big in the '60s. along comes this earthquake, and george plafker was a 35-year-old u.s. geological survey geologist working, he is with the alaska branch. he was not a seismologist by any means. he was like a rock hound. he was go out in the alaskan bush every summer and spend a week or two with one other geologist in the middle of nowhere, and read rock outcroppings and map the rocks. the idea was to forget what kind of mineral resources of alaska had. so when the quake happened, the geological d survey decided they
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needed to figure out what happen with this quake. they didn't really have any seismologists on staff get that they did have was george and a couple other geologist who were comfortable in getting around alaska. there were not afraid of bears. they can live for a week or two out in the bush country with no contact with anybody and survive. so they sent george and a couple of the people to alaska to do the work. and for george in particular that totally changed his life. he and the other spent a couple weeks doing an initial survey. they wrote a report and he went back the next summer and spent the entire summer living on a barge and survey the land changes because one of the big things that happen in this quake is over and a perhaps the size of california some of the land rose up and some of the sunk down. and so we measured that all over the course of the summer.
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and then went back and just in sort of, just one of these things, like what makes side so incredible is here's a guy who went to brooklyn college. he had a bs in geology, but he saw this change firsthand, so all these changes a and he also spent time in a south america ad fixing things that led him to totally accept the idea that the continents moved around and stuff. and that this crust must be sliding, under continental crust. he looked atl it all and put yu into into into together and figure out and wrote a paper in 1965 that basically laid out what mega crust with? are. he was up against a lot of people, a lot of prominent people including one in particular who wrote a paper that appeared a couple months before his thatly argued totally
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the opposite way, that it had to have been much different kind of situation that was not related to any kind of sliding of one crust or another. george turned out to be right. the great thing about this book for me in addition to meeting survivors of the quake and spending some time in alaska was i got to spend time with george, because he is at age 87 now, i think he is 88 now, he's still going strong. he lives in northern california. he retired from the geological survey 22 years ago, but he still goes to the offices at menlo park everyday. he's still working on the alaska earthquake. one of the great joys of my life as a got to spend some time with him in alaska, including beingfi his field assistant for a day as we werewe slogging around the copper river delta. because he has been studying, he is taken course of the copper river delta which is in the
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earthquake zone. he's trying to figure out how often these earthquakes happen. these big, big alaskan earthquakes. he's basically figured out they happen every 500 years or so. so alaska is safe for now. but he's an amazing guy. he's a very intuitive person. he's just, he has long since got his phd in everything and knows now a lot of seismology at the time hee was just a guy with a rock camera and a compass and hand level, and he really figured it out. it's a testament of two things i think. one, and i believe this is in journalism, too, it's so important to see things firsthand. iel happen to work for a news organization is to police and spending money to send people places and see things. i was just in iceland and alaska working on climate change type stories. and there's a substitute for seeing the stuff firsthand.
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george, , same thing. he saw all this deformation, and the guy that wrote the other paper never saw his work. so that's one thing. and i'm not forgetting what the second thing is. [inaudible] >> butut i'm sure it was vastly important. but the other thing is, it just seems important to me in writing this book to celebrate scientiststs and science, becaue we live in a society now, take her in the united states where science is often not valued scientists are not valued. there's a strong antiscience sentiment amongst some members of governments, , politicians, evenom some schools. and it's important to celebrate sites, not just the famous ones,
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posture and einstein, but people like george who just do the ones and figure things out. george is finally getting some recognition for what he did. there's been a group of scientists for years who have n trying to get him some kind of recognition for his role. the final he's getting a cold metal -- gold medal. and if there's some way this book can continue celebrating his life and career, that makes me very happy. so with that, if you question will want to ask, anything? sure. [applause] >> so i would say this, when you have a question to ask come up and talk into the microphone for
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purposes of video. >> thank you. thanks for really great story there, and also thanks for the great story, and because of your kind words not only that sites what about the u.s. geological survey i'm going to identify myself as a u.s. geoscientist. not a geologist. i hasten to add that so i, but i would like to know more about any further detail you have about george's career with the usgs and how it changed kind of with respect to his stature and
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work. you've already said he came almost instantaneously not as a seismologist but someone who worked on the earthquake in particular and presumably, anton plate tectonics. >> right. >> and anything further? >> sure. >> i don't go back quite as far as george. >> so he went, actually, it's actually very interesting. as was said at the beginning the most powerful earthquake ever to occur in recorded time, and somebody had mentioned the krakatoa before. krakatoa was the age before seismologist so what was out. the only way to defend alaska quake was 1960 chilean quake which i was 9.5. so when george came out with this paper 1965 and laid out this basic idea that mega crust
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earthquakes happen, and in doing so essentially the way i like to say is the only way you can understand this earthquake is if you acceptt the idea like tectonics. very prominent guy at caltech by the name of clarence allen said okay, you think you have figured out why dided you go out and chk out the 1960 quake and see what you see. so we did. he got a grant and with two children. he did more or less the same thing. he hired a fishing boat. he spent time working for an oil company in south america. he did the same kind of surveying work and found out essentially the same thing that there was this incredible deformation and only fault you could have on this point was this slow sliding shallow fault. he studied that one and actually that paper which i think was in 1967 comparing both earthquakes was in some ways even more influential. so he had an interesting career because he was a member of the alaska great so still did a lot of work in alaska, a lot of
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basic geology work. but because of his expertise, particularly in the fall and winter s and spring when he couldn't really work in alaska, normally he would be back in menlo park, he would go work on earthquakes. he did a lot of work even after he retired. he went, studied the earthquake in 2004, e the one that caused e tsunami spirit he studied, it wasn't an earthquake but he went down to study this earthquake in peru that occurred in 1979 and he went in early '80s and actually, he was so taken by another thing that happened during the earthquake he ended a up studying that. what happened was the was a landslide for the top 8000 feet of a really high peak in the andes broke off, formed this, you know, 30 million cubic yard debris slide. went down a mountain.
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it reached speeds estimated at 600 miles an hour. it we need to about and it kind of came up t the other side of e valley which was shorter and it became airborne. select 30 million cubic yards of material traveling 600 miles an hour in the arabic and it landed on an unfortunate city of 25,000 people and buried all except a couple hundred of them. so he studied that because he figured out exactly what happened. things likee that. he had a really interesting career. as i i said he is still going strong. he's been working on a paper now about the frequency of these mega crust earthquakes in that part of alaska, and hopefully it will come out at some point. >> where did he studied his phd? >> stanford while he was working for the survey. i think it was the chile quake paper might be in his phd
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thesis, so was in the late '60s. >> thanks. >> sure. >> i am so short. i'm not sure if this is going to work. do an elvis thing. there youis go. >> is this good? when i was at earthquake park in anchorage, i was absolutely astonished by the degree to which they had put effort into explaining both the scientific and the individual impact of the earthquake. what i was equally astonished by was how little loss of life there was, thank goodness, because alaska was so sparsely populated. >> right. >> let me ask you, how beneficial was e earthquake park and the fibers wereia in philly with it to t the publication of your book? >> well, i visited earthquake park a couple of times, but i
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got actually most of my education about geology and earthquakes from george directly. it was one of the greatest joys of my career wasim spending time with him and alaska. through the good graces of the geological survey of their and current geologist by the name of peter, we spent a couple of days on prince william sound. we visited the places where he measured. we stood on this beach that had been a beach on march 27, 19 city 44, at 5:00. and by 5:40 p.m. it was 35 feet in the air. there were trees growing out of it, there was a moss on the call. i got most of my education from george and talking with other people. peter was very helpful. earthquake park is a great place because that's where the story i read about bob atwood, that's his neighborhood. so that's the remnants of all these, so i mention that every
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was under laid by this layer of bootlegger cove clay that basically turned to greece. all that land that sat above it slid about 1000 feet or more towards the water, and it broke up into all these pieces. so an earthquake park what use is the redness of that. even 50 years later it's obvious the land was tortured basically. it's really good place. if you're ever in anchorage it like beckham you get a couple of hours flights or anything it is literally right off the runway. >> thank you. >> sure. >> i grew up in alaska and i left in may of 1963 so i just missed this event but certainly with a number of quakes while i was living up there. i did seeh, the aftermath right after the quake and that's another. story. i have a photograph of what to show you, an aerial photograph
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of anchorage immediately after the quake and you could see the debris going out. >> it's all broken up because there was snow cover. so the fishers a very dark and the snow is white so it looks like, i don't how to describe it. >> what always testing he was icing been withheld talked about eight or nine people were actually only died in anchorage proper but most of the deaths were along the coast of kodiak, is that correct? >> yes. i get into the in the book. most of the deaths come with thanks earthquake, building fall and you and you will die that happens. but in the alaska quake, 9% of the deathsea were due to water d tsunamis. omin some cases tsunamis hit whe the grant was still shaking, if you can imagine that. the other thing is as people point at the were not that many people in the entire state. a lot of people talk about the pacific northwest and b how it's conditions are somewhat the same.
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it has a plate that is getting charged up and g someday it's going to pop as the geologist like to say, and that, there's 10 million people in that part of the pacific northwest. thato would be a major, major, major disaster. >> our teachers are said to us if there's a quick right outside and all hold hands. [laughing] >> that's not, the official idea now is thus that the getting under doorway is no longer really thought of as a good idea. pretty much any part of the house is a strong as a way. don't when outside the you're likely to be hit by something. these terrible earthquakes in italy that it even not that powerful but to all these old masonry buildings that don't have much reinforcement, bricks fall, people run outside and then there's an aftershock and a façade is over and, unfortunately, people
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die. so the idea is get down, get under something and stay there. like get under a table. >> what other tv stations, i think all the tv stations at the time, the tower was on top of apartments and it's like a 14 or 15 story, and the towers were on top. i was working at the station back in. you go outside and you could see the tower waving back and forth. >> that's a good point. alaska doesn't have mega crust earthquakes happen very often but there's lots of of the faults in alaska and is responsible for something like 16% of the earthquakes in the world, in alaska. >> thank you very much. >> sure. >> i was lucky enough to your interview on npr fresh air, a great interview but one of the think i choice about you mentioned in 40ir or 50 years ty think the pacific northwest will have earthquake for some time like that? you mention it, plafker said
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every 500 years the obviously the development of plate tectonics have been helpful at how much better have we gotten at able to forecast with earthquakes will happen? >> you talking to different areas, talking about alaska and about the pacific northwest. it's two different plates. so different situations. it's a good question. a lot of people ask like why can't we predict earthquakes? people have been trying to do it forever. i think it's never going to happen. but what they can do is they can forecast probabilities. it's based on knowing how frequent big earthquakes are. so for instance, in the pacific northwest, and part of this is because the work of george plafker is that over the years with the no call paleo diet seismology, figuring out past earthquakes by doing things like looking at sentiments and how the land is uplifted and sunk. but in the pacific northwest
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they discovered the various techniques that the last really big earthquake on that plate boundary was in 1700. in fact, they know the day, genuine 29th something. they know this because there was a big turn on in japan they killed a lot of people and it was recorded in japan. they had gone back and they found that the return time for earthquake, how often these bigg thatquakes occur in location are 400-600 years. we are now 317 years after the last one, so that's why they forecast, and i don't know exactly what the possibilities are an different scientist scil give you to the ones but they say there is ask probability would be a a major quake on tht fault within x time, like maybe one in five chance come within 100 years, whatever.
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so that's what they do. nobody can say there's going to be earthquake him 9.5 earthquake on january 15, 2080 or something. people just cannot do that. they also have, the reason they do thiss forecasting is to alert people to the ideas they live in a risky area, a hazardous area. and the people in a pacific northwestdo, a very hazardous aa and i think people are getting the message. people are pulling things like tsunami shelters. people know what to do in the event of an earthquake, maybe the big risk is from water and not so much in buildings because buildings are built these days to pretty tough standards. so that's the event forecasting. it's not to like all our people and not to predict, but just to make people aware that there are
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problems, potential problems. >> thank you. >> sure. >> could you tell us just very briefly about the measurement of earthquakes? >> sure. sweat the time of the64 64 earthquake they use something called the richter scale which was developed by charles richter was a very famous seismologist at caltech. it basically measured the waves more or less, and it was not very good at measuring big it's never been very good at it. and, in fact, in this quake the closest seismograph actually broke during the quake. it was overwhelmed by the power of this earthquake. so in the ensuing 50 years it worked out a better way to measure quakes and it's called the moment magnitude scale. what that does is it uses all the information that seismograph pickup, all the waves and everything, but it basically computes the power based on the
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length of the fault and how much it moves and figure out how much energy is released. so the 9.5 quake in chile, so in those quakes, it were not sure exactly the magnitude was because seismographs couldn't we do. the richter scale couldn't deal with. they have since come back and calculated, and that's why they say the alaska point was 9.2. some people might think it's 9.3, and the chilean quake is 9.5. it's based on i think in chile the fault was 800 miles long. it actually broke, and i forget the actual amount of slip, actual displacement, but it was in the order of the tens of feet. so they can forget the amount of energy and before the magnitude. they've done the same with alaska, and every quake now, that's that they do it, particularly the big ones. so that's how it's done. >> you focus tonight, has but a
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natural causes of earthquakes. are you or is anyone looking at human causes of earthquakes? and in thinking of things like fracking or natural gas and some jurisdictions have even banned that now. very heavy dams with reservoirs seem to have -- is this a big problem or is anyone really looking at it? >> i've done a bunch of stories about what the cop induced seismicity which is these days it's largely due to oil and gas operations. in most cases it's not the actual fracking process per se. it's not, fracking is a inject fluid with sand and other chemicals that into a well to break the ship open to get the gas or oil out.d and so it's like, basically you're exploding the rock and that causes very, very, very minor quakes. but what happens, a fracking well, or any welcome
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particularly an old oil or gas will is for like every barrel of oil you get you might get like 50 barrels of water out of the well. this water is and grant him it's picked up radiation from radioactivity from rocks, so you can't just dump it in a lake or in the ocean. they pump it back underground in storage wells. almost all of the earthquakes come these induced earthquakes that a been happening in oklahoma, there were some in youngstown, ohio, summit arkansas and texas places like that, almost all those are related to pumping of wastewater down, not fracking per se. there's been finally a realization that the way you stop these is by stop pumping so amuch water down and find anotr place to put it. that seems to work and even in oklahoma which is big oil and gas stickam they have started to realize that.
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your reference to dance is interesting. the same kind of idea, you compound a lot of water waterways a lot and it upsets the equilibrium below ground. there's fault everywhere, not big ones likeot in alaska but yu put a lot of weight in a a plae and it will change the equilibrium down there and it might have an earthquake. similarly, , mining to do the se thing because you are removing material and all of a sudden you less rock, less weight and you have earthquakes. people are aware of it there's been no, there was one, 8.0 earthquake in kazakhstan in an oil and gas field like 25 years ago. that's by far b the biggest one that's ever happened. most of these induced earthquakes are muchh smaller. most of them can't even be felt. the biggest one in the states i think was in oklahoma in a town called brady, and it was high .6. the damaged a couple of houses
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and one or two people were injured by falling stuff. most of t these quakes are smal. yes? [inaudible] >> and your colleagues, if you happen to have -- does this have any connection for you? what does it tell you, if anything, about i'm a change? >> the question was, what i've learned about quakes have any connection to climate change. it's a good question. i don't think there's much connection with. one of the things i like about my job is i did you study different things. my employer is nice enough, well, i took six butts off without pay, they were nice enough not to blame you for six months, but they let me, obviously i wrote most of the climate change but when an earthquake happens i write about that.
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it's kind of like we're into disaster. when a volcano occurs, i would iceland a couple years ago when there was a big erection going on. there's really no, not that i can think, sort of direct connection between climate change and what i know about earthquakes. [applause] >> one of the question back there if you want. >> how many plates there are? >> you know, i'm sure i will get this wrong but i i believe there are about a dozen. if there any geophysicist in the audience, correctly. there are a dozen major ones like the pacific plate which is almost all the pacific ocean. the north american plate, the south american plate, a bunch of them like that. one of the things that geophysicists have learned in the last 50 years or in the last four years since plate tectonics has become an accepted his is lots of smaller plates and is a
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very complicated picture.te and, in fact, plates tend to break up and there's fault between parts of place. the san andreas fault which everyone knows about his acts with the call to transform fault, as to sections of the plate move against each other. the short answer is there's about a dozen big ones and a bunch of small ones. all right? [applause] >> thanks for coming. >> copies of the book arek. available at the checkout desk. he will be up here sunny. please form a line to the right of the table and our staff would appreciate it if you would fault of the chairs you are sitting in. >> that's george plafker by the way. [inaudible conversations]
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>> next up for booktv alaska begin an interview with historian douglas brinkley about his book "the quiet world: saving alaska's wilderness kingdom, 1879-1960". >> host: you'vee written about pr. you've written about james come use with about the flood and human by katrina, jimmy carter. why alaska? >> guest: i am writing a whole history of u.s. conservation movement in my first fight was called the wilderness warrior and dealt with theodore roosevelt others. this is the second installment and its the whole campaign that begins in 1879 with a cofounder of the sierra club going up and sing those incredible glaciers in the passage of alaska and writing about it and how a whole group of what i call really wilderness warriors have worked to save wild alaska including theodore


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