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James Berkland

of national emergency or something, when they hired a few people with bachelors during the uranium boom because they needed feet to go out there and walk around.

But there was no way that I could advance. I could have worked as a technician for my whole life there. So I went back to school, got my master’s at San Jose State, and then just after I’d completed that suddenly the offers began coming. I could be going to the State Water department, or Bureau of Reclamation. Then the U.S.G.S. wanted me possibly to go up on an ice island by myself for six months, just to make bottom measurements on arctic ice flow, check their radioactivity, and atmosphere– just read instruments all by myself, until the ice got cold enough in August or September to freeze up and they could land the plane.

Well, anyway all these things came down, but I had made a decision and signed up with the US Bureau of Reclamation as a professional engineer and geologist. I worked with them for over five years, in dams, tunnels, and canals in Oregon and California mainly. At this time came the revolution in Earth Sciences– the plate tech tectonic in evolution. But from all of my courses through Santa Rosa Junior College, Cal Berkeley, and San Jose State, plate tectonics was just a figment of the imagination. It was just coincidental– that word I hear all the time– that it looks like you could fit South America and Africa together. There’s no mechanism. It’s just some wild idea from this German geographer, who is not even a geologist. So what’s he know about this continental drift?

So it was laughter that was associated with the theory. My professor would always talk about it, show the map, and ha ha. You know, there’s this idea some geographer believed, but it really doesn’t make any sense. We’d have to change our whole understanding geology developed over the last 200 years if we were to accept this. Well, so be it. But they didn’t accept it until the late 60’s after notable conference at Monterey, where they brought geologists from all around the world. They now had space-age data, bottom -of – the-sea data, new fossil data, and it all began to jive. They realized that we’re not all little islands; everything in it connects at some point. The unified theory of geology developed at that meeting in 1969.

Well, it was too much for me to avoid anymore. I’d been getting little glimpses of this from talking to people, and seeing things in the paper, or the Geological Society Bulletin. But when I last left the U.S.G.S. in 1964 they didn’t buy it at all. There was no such thing as continental drift. Movement of the magnetic pool might explain things, not the movement of continents- So that also added fuel to my understanding, with light to my understanding about seismic windows.

David: How did you get interested-involved in earthquake prediction)

James: I came out from deciding I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life back on the east coast, when all of my previous life was here. I told my wife don’t bother to come back with the little daughter, because I’m coming back to California. So I came, without a job. We’d taken a tour around the country, and after we’d got back to my mother’s place up in Sonoma County, there was a little postcard from San Jose’s County. Mr. Berkland, if you’re still interested in this job you might come for an interview.

I had flown out to take the orals in February of 73, by then in June my appointment was over back there, and they wanted me to come back. I said, no, I’m going back to California. We had a couple of possibilities, but they dwindled. And I hadn’t heard from the county. So here’s this postcard– if you’re really interested, call us by August 31st, and this is like September 2nd. So not to leave any stone unturned I called up the county engineer, and I said, well, I just back from the east coast, and I’m available now if that position is still open. Yeah, c’mon down. I’ll prompt you.

So next day I come down and talk to him, and three days later I’m County Geologist, the first one for Santa Clara County, the first one in Northern California ever. They had most of the major counties in Southern California, and they have their own staff of County Geologists. But not here, and there was a crying need for one, because of the geologic hazards, the landslides and earthquake problems, and subsidence developing under the Santa Clara Valley. So for the first few months I was interested- through the earthquakes I felt, and several others that had been reported to me in the Bay Area– but not until January 8th. 1974. after I’d been there for six months, did it all begin to jive.

I saw an article in the newspaper that we might expect local flooding around the San Francisco Bay due to an unusual astronomical alignment. I got out my almanacs. (I’ve always been an almanac buff.) Say, what is this? First full moon of the year on January 8th was on the same day as the closest perigee in about eight years. And the two events were only an hour and a half apart. Very unusual for them. What I call “synchronaity”, that close together; between the syzygy– the lining up– and the perigee- closest approach. That was causing extreme tides. Also, it was just a week after the closest approach of the earth and the sun, the perihelia, that happens once a year, in through January.

So that combination was close to the conditions of January 4th, 1912, when we had the maximum force in 600 years. This was the maximum force in several years. And I thought, huh, if the ocean waters are being pulled up and down by the gravity, and the earth is sort of rotating underneath the bulge of water and high tide. Then six hours later it’s over here where there’s a deficiency of water, and then six hours later it’s down under here, another bulge. So that’s why you have two high and two low tides a day.

I didn’t understand all that, really. I didn’t have the geometry that clear. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what the difference between a new moon and full moon was. All I knew was they were lined up. The clearest analogy is that if the moon is rising just as the sun is setting, that’s when you have the full face of the moon lit up. like the sun’s a big flashlight. So you see the full moon, but if the moon is up here at the zenith, when the sun is rising or setting, it’s obvious you don’t see the whole face of the moon. You can only see the part that’s near the moon.

So that’s full moon. When the moon rises and the sun’s setting, that’s best you can do. And you might even get an eclipse, and that’s a perfect syzygy. I love the solar eclipse. I’ve seen three, and I expect to see another one in February of 98. 1 went down to the Galapagos Islands, and up into the Caribbean. It’ll be a beautiful total eclipse, lasting over four minutes. We saw the ones in Mexico in 91, and I flew down to Peru in 94 and saw the one there. The first one I saw with my daughter back in 79, with the last one to hit the United States, 48 states. There won’t be another one here until 2017. 1 hope I’m still here.

David: How did you notice that the association between this and earthquakes?

James: Okay, so I said, hey if that’s causing the ocean tides to go up, maybe the solid earth has a tide in it. Indeed it does, about three feet. I didn’t know about it at the time. Well, if the earth is bulging up and down, maybe that’s limbering up the fault lines. And if they’re meta-stable-ready to fail– this little extra stress of the movement of the earth, the undulation, underneath this gravitational stress, might trigger the fault into action. So I said, hmm, we’ve had six quakes here– the day of the full moon, two days after the full moon, on the day of perigee, six days after the new moon and perigee.

All six quakes that hit the Bay Area from my arrival there in September until January 8th confirmed this wild idea. So I thought, well, if it continues like this, we should have a quake within the next week. I told the folks around the office that there was likely to be a quake around here in the next few days. They said, how big? Well, these others were mainly 3’s and low 4’s, and since this is even a higher tidal force, probably a 4 to a 5. Two days later 4.4 hit down in Buellor, and I said to myself, boy, this is simple. What’s so tough about predicting quakes? Why isn’t everyone using this method? I still don’t know why everybody isn’t using it.

When I went to Peru in November of 74, 94, our Peruvian of Inca descent said after the eclipse, I am so happy you were able to see our eclipse. We in Peru have a tradition we watch the eclipse, and then we wait for the earthquake. I said, would you say that again for my video camera, please? Totally caught me by surprise- my idea, maintained by the Incas. So I had an interview with her for like ten minutes with the video camera. No doubt, they could see the relationship. She said, what’s unusual is that we already had the quake. Koosco shook with a 4 magnitude quake, three hours after the moment of totality, she said. Usually it takes a day or so, and it’s possibly bigger.

The next day a 6.2 hit Peru, and there was no quakes as strong for the first half of November. The strongest quake in the world occurred the day after the total eclipse, which lasted about four and a half minutes. The one in Mexico lasted six minutes, and there was no announced Mexican quake. But there was a Peruvian quake on that same day, even though there only saw a partial eclipse.

David: So this gave you some additional confirmation that you were onto something.

James: Yeah, time and again. I mean, if you go into the computer and ask for all the literature showing earthquakes and tides, over three hundred titles come up. So when a reporter goes from me to the U.S.G.S. or to Berkeley, and they say, oh no, we don’t support what Berkland’s doing. There’s no evidence, no correlation- it just shows they are blindly

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