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James Berkland

I heard of some people, and it might be useful. She should check into the university back there. She has a gift.

Well, he did get in touch with her, and I didn’t hear anything for three months. On March the 31st she phoned me directly at the office. Mr. Berkland, excuse me for troubling you at work, but yesterday all the symptoms came back, and this morning we had a 5 magnitude quake, the strongest in three months. She got fine for three months, then got another 5 magnitude quake. I don’t believe I can take this anymore, she said. I believe I’m going to put my home up for sale. Now hang on there, I said, if you don’t like quakes you’ll find New Brunswick’s a great place to be, and the magnitude and the intensities is going to decrease with time. The aftershocks almost show that pattern. Well, I don’t know, she said. Beside we’re coming back to visit my wife’s folks this summer, I said, and I’d like to talk to you. Well, we’ll see.

So, when I was in New Brunswick I got a rental car, left my wife her mom, and went out to the ferry boat to see this woman– Simmie Cuttyback. I stopped at the grocery store and asked, can you tell me where the Cuttyback’s live? Oh yeah, you go over here, and then over a railroad track, and then… So I pull in, and a guy’s unloading the trunk of car. And I said, good afternoon. Have I found the Cuttyback residence? Well, it was until two weeks ago. They moved to Virginia. She did what the animals do, She left her normal place of security because she couldn’t handle what was going on.

So that was kind of a unique instance, until five years later I got a call from a lady in San Jose. And I wish I’d written her name down. It was kind of busy afternoon when she called. She said, I’ve heard you’re looking at the animals and predicting quakes. She said, you know, I’ve been able to predict earthquakes around here since I was in high school. I said, how do you do it? She said, well, I get this terrible headache about three or four days ahead of the quake. I said. oh, is there a particular place it seems to be centered? Yeah, kind of in the middle of my forehead, kind of low down. And I said, does anything unusual happen just before the quake? Yeah, the pain disappears, and that’s how I know the quake is really eminent. I’m ready for it before get hits. It really tells me. I said, I had this exact call five years ago, four thousand miles away.

In between those calls. in December of 1984. 1 attended the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Society in San Francisco. That year they met, and somebody read a paper announcing for the first time the discovery of the mineral magnetite in the human body. Guess where it is? Right over the pineal gland, where the mystical third eye is supposed to be, where the Indian ladies paint the red spot.

David: So if some human beings are more sensitive to pre-earthquake disturbances than others, than it probably varies among individual animals of a particular species as well, I would imagine. I’ve heard stories from people in dog kennels who were there before and during an earthquake, and the dogs didn’t appear to act unusual prior to the quake. I’ve heard a number of stories like that.

James: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Well, it depends exactly where they are relative to the fault line. The second quake at Livermore was supposed to be stronger than the first, and we barely felt it. But up in Napa it caused the draw bridge to fail, and up in our house in Sonoma Valley the well broke. We’ve had that well since 1943. It was serving two properties. Suddenly they stopped from that 5.5 magnitude quake down in Livermore, fifty or sixty miles away.

We claimed that as a casualty loss, and the IRS officer said, oh come on now. Maybe if some geologist will sign a statement along that line. I said, well, I don’t think that will be too difficult. So I gave him a research paper, and I found what happened before the 1906 earthquake, before the Bakersfield earthquake, and before the Coyote Lake quake. Wells and geysers definitely stop flowing or increase their flow, They definitely change prior to the quake, and then reflect it after. So they accepted it. Instead of having to pro-rate the loss, it was instant casualty loss during the earthquake deductible. That really came in handy. I think it was the first time I ever won over the IRS.

David: Do you have a theory to explain what people have referred to as earthquake lights? What do you think they are?

James: Same thing– electromagnetics. If you have a piece of quartz… Here’s a big piece of quartz crystal. Now, if you have another little piece of quartz, and you rub this at night, this whole thing glows. It’s called piezoelectric, and this was not known until thirty years ago. I went out on cross-coast ranges field trip with H. G. Anellan, who was 92 at the time. He’s a famous old geologist from Nevada, who’s written lots about earthquakes. He told me two great things on that trip that I learned.

One was– Son, he said. when I was a young sprout, this old timer told me don’t take bay leaves and rub in your hand and breath them like that. He says if you do that you’ll get the worst headache you’ve ever got. And he said, I didn’t believe it, so I had to try it. He says, believe me it’s true. So I have never tried it. You know, sometimes you get under a pungent bay tree and you really sense it. It doesn’t feel smell too good, so I believe it.

He also said, when I come down the quartz-site mountains there in Nevada after sunset, I’d notice this light under my feet. It wasn’t sparks. It was the grinding of the rocks, and it was glowing. So I came home, and I’ve got quartz from various places, like Brazil and Alaska. It doesn’t matter where it came from it, if you rub it they all do the same thing. Tribal luminescence is the term for this. The piezoelectric is the giving off of radio signals like quartz crystals do. But they also are tribal luminescent, a feature that’s supposed to be only from unusual crystal like tremaline, banitarite, a few rare oddballs. Quartz is the most common mineral in the world.

How could this phenomenon never have been reported before? In fact, Vince said, he had gone back to a geological meeting ten years earlier or so, and met with Rogers, one of the leading mineralogist in the world at Princeton. As he was in there getting ready to go, he said, you know quartz is tribal luminescent? And Roger looked at him and says, what are you talking about? I’m a mineralogist, this can’t be. Yeah, yeah, it happens with any kind. He said, well, let’s go look. So they go into the darkroom. Well I’ll be damned says Rogers. And suddenly it gets into the textbooks. But at the time that I talked with him back in about 1971 it was not in any textbook. Live and learn. So old wives’ tales are more often true than not, and to just put it down because you’re not used to it, you haven’t seen it, is not scientific. A lot of weird things happen.

David. Skepticism is only one of the requirements for science. The other is curiosity.

James: Sure. Enthusiasm. Keeping the ears, eyes, and mind open. Otherwise you’re on what call high science. High science is a so-called scientist that’s got himself so high up on the ivory tower he has lost touch with the roots, the earth. He’s working from memory, like I was asked to do for my last couple of years with the county. They started making it more and more difficult. Got out field-time notebook, fieldwork, smaller quarters. You know, hint, hint, hint. Get out of here. So I couldn’t do my job the way I should’ve done. You have to get into trenches, across faults. You have to see what the landslide has done, instead relying totally on somebody else’s work. I’m supposed to be reviewing somebody else’s work in the blind.

So I didn’t rely on my previous experiences and photographs, and things like that. Preposterous. No geologist in the state ever was put on those conditions of my last couple of years with the county. For the first fifteen– utter euphoria, I was just walking on clouds here. I was getting almost twice the salary of what I’d gotten as an assistant professor. I was participating in important decisions, and working liaison between cities and counties, and federal and state governments. I was on various panels, and was deciding who’s going to be employed over there. Then suddenly because of earthquake prediction I became persona non grata.

David: If you were given all the funding and manpower that you considered optimal to create a full-scale, worldwide earthquake prediction network. how would you go about doing it?

James: Oh I’d have a half a dozen staff, a couple of professionals, and have an 800 line. Maybe more than one line, to take these calls from the people with the weird animal reports and the headaches, and the lights in the sky, and the rumbles underground. Around five miles from the Loma Prieta epicenter. one month after the quake, the people in that area had a survivor’s party. Someone said, boy, you know, I can hardly sleep because of these booming noises down under the ground for about a month before the quake, You heard those too? I wasn’t going to say anything about them. Oh you heard those? There were sounds being generated deep down in the ground.

David: Somebody told me that they heard the earth growling for around a month prior to the Loma Prieta quake.

James: There you go. It’s absolutely accepted. But the U.S.G.S. geologists hadn’t heard that. They may have read it somewhere, but they just put it down, or just skimmed over it. Accepting new data, or at least considering new data with an objective frame of mind, and not just buy everybody’s story. because there’s an awful lot of garbage out there.

One night here on KGO, a few days after Loma Prieta, a leading officer from the U.S.G.S. was on describing what could happen as a result of the earthquake. This one lady called and said, I was driving

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