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James Berkland

I went to my boss, and I said what about this guy? And they said, oh forget it, we went to the U.S.G.S., and they said he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But I thought it made sense, and I took it upon myself to batten down the hatches on the solar panel where it was about to be shot– the final inspection to shoot this rocket out with a solar panel. It was all laid out in a very vulnerable condition, he strapped things down, and moved things apart, so when the quake hit, it was safe. Otherwise this multimillion dollar array would have been badly damaged, I feel sure. I think you saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars. I said, that’s good to hear. I wish I’d heard about it a little sooner, like when the county was trying to fire me.

I was quoted in USA Today after the earthquake. After the earthquake a reporter came out and says, well, what good does it do to predict earthquakes? And I said, well, there’s lots of people that want to know. Maybe strap up their hot water heater, or stir up water. Make sure the generator’s good, or whatever. I said well, there’s this lady in Campbell who called me before the quake and said, do you think I should do anything with my china and crystal. And I said, if you’ve ever seriously considered doing it, now is the time. So she went to her china cabinet, took everything out, wrapped it up, and put it in cardboard boxes. The whole china cabinet toppled on the day of October 17th. So USA Today reported to her, and she said, yes that happened. She said, I don’t care if he reads chicken entrails, he’s been accurate too often for me to ignore. Six thousand dollars worth.

David: But no insurance company has ever approached you more seriously?

James: There’s not any reason for them to do it. It would cost them money, and they get their information for free, by calling me on the phone, asking me, what do you think? I’ve always had the remote hope that I would be like a weather forecaster, and be on the evening news, just like the earthquake.

If I get a little paper from Sonoma Valley, where I was raised and planned to return to, the Valley of the Moon, Jack Lennon’s home. Longrange dry-day forecast October- November 1996. The risky days are the black days. That’s the thing that I think. Notice it says, neither weather services nor the publisher guarantees the accuracy of these forecasts and no liability should be devolve upon either. So they’re saying these are higher risks than normal, and this extreme here, this would be up around October-November, so that’s Thanksgiving time. The Thanksgiving day earthquake of the year 1974 was the culmination of that year for me. I had six out of eight in 1974, my first year.

The night before Thanksgiving day, The day before Thanksgiving I was at the U.S.G.S. library. and I saw posted there that we’re having a meeting at the Pick and Hammer Club that night in Mountain View. I’d been a member for six years of the Pick and Hammer Club, and participated in their yearly frolics, their parody-satire of plays and things They have monthly meetings were a lot of ideas come out, and occasionally turn into meaningful papers. But it’s a beer-drinking time, and everybody has a good time. They hear a couple of papers, and see the slides, and so forth.

So I saw that that night, on November 27th of 1974, there was a meeting of Pick and Hammer Club with the subject: Earthquake Prediction: A State of the Art. Three methods: magnetic field, tilt of the ground, a pattern of small quakes down south of Hollaster were suggesting that maybe a quake was due down there. So I went to this meeting, But before I went I quickly made a table of the several quakes I’d predicted that year, and showed the only large earthquakes of the year, and where they fit with the windows, even if I hadn’t predicted them. I made a projection that these high tides, with the eclipse of the moon on the 28th of February, just hours after that Thanksgiving day is going to produce a high stress, and probably a quake of four and half, give or take one.

So I asked the speaker if I could talk to the group when the three scheduled speakers were done. He said, oh sure Jim. Bob Christianson is a former head of the department over at U.C. Santa Cruz. So the meeting was supposed to be over at ten, and it was still going on at 10:30. He came by and said, Jim I have to catch you next month. I said, this is really hot. Just give me five minutes. No, I’m sorry, it’s really too late. So I handed out xerox copies of my prediction, and what had been happening to about ten people.

I’d driven up there with my former master’s thesis adviser at San Jose State, Bob Rose. All the way up we talked about my new ideas, and the prediction. On the way back he said, well, too bad that at a meeting on earthquake prediction nobody actually made one. And I said, yeah, I knew I was in the lion’s den. I thought at first about raising my hand, and asking a question. then it turning it into my theory. But I chickened out.

So the next day my wife was fixing Thanksgiving day turkey, and to get out of all the action. I took my young daughter, then about six over to watch the movies at Century 21. While we were at the movies the predicted quake hit. 5.2. It came rolling through the valley, the strongest around here in about three years. It was nine hours early, but we didn’t recognize the quake, because we were in the movie watching the first run of the movie Earthquake.

David: With “sensoround”. (laughter)

James: That’s right, exactly. We thought it was part of the special effects. So we see the movie, come out., and I turn on the car radio. It said, yeah the quake was felt from Santa Rosa to Monterey and Madesto. I said, wait a minute, we just saw Los Angeles destroyed. who’s this Orson Wells? No the real quake. Oh darn. it’s only 3:00. It was supposed happen after midnight. So I was nine hours off. In those days I would never open up my window before the new or full moon. figuring we had a static situation. We got to have the maximum stress from the maximum gravity, but even the day before you could have the stress that the world hasn’t seen for six months or so.

So the fault doesn’t know that tomorrow is going to be even stronger. This may be enough to put you over the top tonight. So then I began adjust, because also the Coyote Lake quake in 79 was a day early. I’d said the 7th to 14th, and it was on the 6th. So learning from those two quakes, I now open up the window up to three days before the new or full moon, and it will close three days early. But it’s depending on the tidal action. So my seismic window always includes syzygy, the highest tides of the month, and usually includes perigee. But sometimes perigee is right between the new and full moon. That’s eight days here, and seven
days there, and can’t fit within the window. I want to include ocean tides.

David: So you look at the tides first, and then the Lost and Found?

James: Yeah, a year in advance. I’ve already even been asked by the tide table people, Top’s Tide Table to issue next year’s windows.

David: The tide tables allow you to do long-range prediction, and the animals help you to narrow it down, to pinpoint more precisely when it will be.

James: Yes. Also for past earthquakes I could go back and look. Like the biggest quake in Europe that ever hit was in Lisbon in 1755 on November 1st. Just like today– All Saint’s Day. That’s what Halloween is– Hallow evening before All Saint’s Day. So all the people were in the cathedrals when the 8.9 destroyed Lisbon, with all of its art and fine treasures gathered from around the world. The people that survived the failing buildings went to shore to get away from it, and this sixty foot wall of water came from the big tsunami. Some forty, fifty thousand people were killed there at least, and caused tremendous changes in Europe. It caused lakes in Switzerland to slosh back and forth several times, and up in Scandinavia, hundreds of miles away. Kant wrote. “don’t talk about earthquakes, you’ll only encourage them.” (laughter)

In some part of Germany, there was jeweler, working with fine magnet to pick up little pieces of things. It stopped working the day before the earthquake. The same thing happened in Tokyo in 1855. He had a big magnet hanging in the window to attract people’s attention. because he had slivers of metal hanging on it. He’s working on his jewelry. and all of a sudden– crash!

David: Oh. it all came down at once.

James: Yeah, it all just fell. And he thought, what’s going on? This magnet’s lost its power. Oh darn. The next days its got its power back. I had a call after the Whittier earthquake from a little old lady in Pasadena (laughter). Really. She said, I called Coltish. and they said they weren’t interested, but you might be. She lives in Southern Pasadena, maybe five miles from the epicenter. Before the Whittier quake, she said, the refrigerator magnets dropped off. She said, I’ve never heard that before.

I said, well, there are a couple of mentions of this in the book When the Snakes Awake, and this Helmut Tributsch from Germany, from the Max Plank Institute. He ran into the same problems about the same time I did. He had relatives in Northern Italy, in a little German colony up there. He was born there. And he’s working down in the Andes, and heard about this terrible earthquake that’s killed about a thousand people. He went dashing back up there. Luckily his family were still alive, but he lost some friends.

And he got these strange stories from people. They said, a whole herd of deer came down and clustered around the village the day before the quake, much like they would do before a big storm. They’d come down off the mountains. They didn’t seem to have any fear of people. There were three reports of mother cats taking kittens out of their homes, and depositing them out in the shrubbery before the quake. One farmer was

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