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James Berkland

of about 3.8, about four miles from here.

David: And you think this is what the animals are picking up on?

James: Yes. See, I could say I’m awful close to knowing that’s what the animals are picking up on, but there may be other things too. But I’m convinced that that’s one of the more important things. Another aspect is homing pigeons. They’ve known for fifteen years or so that homing pigeons have the mineral magnetite behind their eyeballs. Now this used to be almost unacceptable that animals create minerals in their bodies. If they get into streams, with all the various rocks which have magnetite in them, but don’t tell me animals can make it. Well, yes, you can tell me that they do.

I used to raise homing pigeons. When I was in high school I would take a couple in my nap sack with me. The little sweaty critters were kind of disheveled, and I would pet them. Okay, you know there’s my home? And they wouldn’t fly straight home. What would they do? As you’ve seen birds, these pigeons at the Olympics and so forth. Instead of flying in a V-line, what do they do?

They can have a flock of a thousand birds, like they do sometimes in pigeon races. All the cages are released immediately– pah, pah, pah, pah– and they finally begin to form in a big flock. And they begin to circle– three, four times– and then they start to head for their various homes.

Why are they circling? If you have magnetic material, and you move it around in a magnetic field, you’re generating electric current. So their little pea-brain picks up on this sensitive magnetite moving around in a magnetic field around the earth. Then they say, aha, north is that way, and this is the way we fly home. But if we’ve just had a big solar flare, pigeon racers will cancel all races. Pigeon racers pay close attention to what they hear about the sun. Pigeons get lost in big solar flares, and these birds are $1500 or more.

David: Have you heard that homing pigeons can find their way back home, even if the home is moved?

James: No.

David: During World War 11 there were these traveling caravans that the homing pigeons lived on in conjunction with the military. Even though they kept moving the bases, the pigeons were able to find their way back the moving caravan. There’s a whole chapter in Rupert Sheldrake’s new book just about this. Also near-blind homing pigeons are pretty accurate in finding their way back too.

James: Oh, no problem. But if they put a magnet around their neck then they’re hopeless.

David: Oh really?

James: Yeah, a full-time magnet, unless they’re old experienced birds, and able to use the sun. But if they’re at night, or in in fog, they’re helpless. Now, I’d imagine if they’d moved– the birds aren’t restricted to one point, and they use their eyeballs, so if they recognize what the caravan or the truck or whatever that that they live in looks like, they’ll go back to where they’re supposed to. And if you’re not there, then they’ll probably spiral out and look for you.

But time and again birds get lost after solar flares; sometimes just during a great windstorm, or thunder and lightening, that same sort of thing. They just sit down and wait it out. But the mysterious thing was back about ten years ago I saw an article about this homing pigeon fancier in Morgan Hill. I’d already had inklings about earthquakes and homing pigeons, so I called him, and we’re still in contact. I wrote an article for his homing pigeon thing, because he’s president of the international, or national group, and then secretary for the local homing pigeon fanciers for 30 years or more.

So I said, have you had any smashed races lately?– which is one of these times when half the birds don’t get back, or they’re very late. He says, well, yeah we had one– and he gave me a couple of dates. This was back in 1980, and they were racing in from in Nevada, and he said, gee, they normally come in about four and a half hours. This time the winner took six and a half hours, and some haven’t gotten back yet. Well, they were flying right over Mammoth Lake, just before the 92 quake, so the faults there were under stress. Changes in the magnetic field, and they got lost.

So he said, but we’re not the only place that gets these smash races. They had a bad one last year in Los Angeles. So this must be about 82. 1 said, what was the date? He said, oh, let’s see, it was November 24. And I said, my gosh, the day after Thanksgiving, and it was the day of this 5.8 quake up at Mammoth and Bishop, that was felt in the Bay Area. I hear this pause at the other end of the line. He said, Bishop? That’s where the race began. It was Bishop to Los Angeles. So that was the clincher for m e.

He said but we really had the worst smash race in our history a long time ago. I’d have look it up. We got around 10% of our birds back. And I said, what was the date? A week later he said, well, you still interested in that date? I had to do a lot of checking. I went to his house, and he’s got volume after volume of the race records, the ancestry, and the wind, and the humidity, and all this stuff on all these races. He said the worst race we ever race we ever had was March 24, 1964. Boy the trembles went up and down my back– when you get one of these Ultimate Truth kind of things. Yeah, that was three days before the strongest quake we ever measured in North America, the Good Friday earthquake on March 27, which was on the day of the full moon. So it all ties in.

David: Why do you think it is that traditional geologists fail to acknowledge, or brush aside your work in earthquake prediction?

James: Well, I used to think it’s just ignorance. They hadn’t heard. They thought I was just making this up. In each of these little aspects I’ve gone to into with rather a skeptical attitude, because I’m a scientist, and it’s like– show me. But when these little things begin to click, and it begins to tie in. And if it gets positive results, how can you ignore it?

When we started to charge $1.49 a minute for quake prediction information somebody wanted to sue us for being charlatans. So the sheriff’s department, and the D.A.’s office said prove it, because I said these are the best earthquake predictions that I was aware of in the state. I’m the number one earthquake forecaster in the state.

So I had to show where I’d predicted all 21 of the 5 magnitude quakes that we’ve had around here. The last one didn’t quite hit 5. 1 predicted we’d have a 5 this summer. The newsletter that predicted it was down at the printers the day this house shook. We had a 4.8 about five miles from here. My newsletter was predicting we were going to have it, and it happened. So I don’t call that a buy, but that’s a pretty close prediction, and we haven’t had one anywhere near that close nor big here since then.

On January 15, 1994 there was a 5.8 down here in Tiger Lake, and it was on the last day of my seismic window. That day out here was a windy day. I was being interviewed by this new TV network- the Science Fiction Network. They hadn’t started up yet, but I was going to be on their show. So they were interviewing me for a couple of hours or so, and they left around 4:00 in the afternoon. And they said, you still think that quake’s going to happen before your window ends at midnight tonight?

I said, yeah, sure. The conditions looked right. We had a lot of missing cats and dogs, and the tides were high So that night at 10:40, just an hour and twenty minutes before my window was over, we got this 5.5. It came rolling through. They were still in a motel, as they hadn’t gone back to LA yet, and it scared the heck out of them. So when I got a copy of the show, at the end it said, “while in Northern California Berkland’s predicted quake happened while we were on location.” So that was pretty timely.

I had another one that hit with the strongest quake– there was an aftershock over 6.2– in 1984, the first 6 in the Bay Area since 1911. 1 had said it would happen in 1984, following the highest record rainfall we’d ever had here in 1983– seven inches over the all-time record of 1889. So that happened 1890. The following year on April 24 we got a 6 magnitude quake, so we broke that 1889 record in 1983. 1 said, boy, looks we’re due for the first 6 around here since 1911. 1 talked about that to Seek Technology, and to the Campbell Chamber of Commerce. They’ve all written that, yes, I predicted that it happened.

A couple of them pressed me– okay, when? Just next year. But when? Can you pin it down better? And I said, it will probably happen in March, April, or October, which are the big earthquake months around here. Well, what day? I said, well, I think I may know by the animal action just before, and there are some other indicators, such as water level, and a pattern of small earthquakes. There are about forty different phenomena that tell you its getting close.

Well, we were in Hawaii, the whole family in April of 84. When I came back I had stack of newspapers nobody gone through. I was backing through the Lost and Found, and you can see where in 1984 1 got 41 missing dogs. The next day a 6.2 hit. It was April 24th, the same day as the 1890 quake, the earlier record rainfall here. So this one was April 24th, following the new record. So I got all this print, and people saying congratulations.

David: Have insurance companies ever taken an interest in your work?

James: Yeah, they’ve given me calls. I’ll tell you one of the happiest things was when I made this prediction of the World Series earthquake in 89. Apparently it made a big difference to Lockheed Corporation. Last year I got a call from someone who was working with Lockheed. He said, you know Mr. Berkland, I’ve been wanting to call you for sometime, you saved Lockheed hundreds of thousands of dollars. I said, tell me about it. He said, well, you know when you made that prediction before the World Series Earthquake?

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